Australia Koala Foundation (AKF) chief executive officer Deborah Tabart was scathing in her comments to the Shenhua PAC hearing on Thursday, claiming the Chinese miner’s projected impacts on the koala population reads like a “high school project”.
Ms Tabart was among those who made submissions to the PAC panel in Gunnedah, slamming some of the science and figures used by Shenhua in relation to its koala plan of management.
She questioned the miner’s koala population figures of between 8613 and 16,893 in the Gunnedah local shire, claiming AKF believes there are no more than 1300.
"I truly believe the Shenhua numbers are completely wrong and I do not believe the assessments of the impacts are adequate."- Australia Koala Foundation (AKF) chief executive officer Deborah Tabart
Those impacts relate to vegetation, natural habitat and offsets among others.
“We have mapped vegetation on this site and our maps show high quality habitat at the impact point of the mine and lower quality habitat at the potential release sites and offsets.
“Shenhua’s mapping holds the reverse position which is very puzzling. We have grave concerns there has not been sufficient sampling done on site,” she said.
She said that the miner has identified a range of impacts the proposed mine will have on the koala population, but any meaningful consideration of those impacts was “lacking”.
“My scientists made sure I said this. The section of the document dealing with the impacts of the proposal on the koalas reads like a high school project.”
Ms Tabart also warned that the koala was heading for extinction.
“Gunnedah’s population has got a chance, but unless good science reigns, they’ll be gone,” she said.
Shenhua came under fire for “failing to properly consider the impacts of substantial disturbance on koalas” and questioned the company’s offset areas.
“Who decided where to buy this? Australia Koala Foundation mapping shows most of the existing vegetation to be removed is preferred high quality habitat ... and the amount of Watermark offset area is less quality and will be totally isolated by mining infrastructure by the west and north and agricultural land to the east and south,” she said.
The assessment process and state government also came under fire.
“I believe the current assessment is not sufficiently robust to allow a decision-maker to form a reliable view,” Ms Tabart said.
“It is remarkable to me, to think that the Office of Environment and Heritage could even vaguely think these documents are good enough for a federally listed species.”