GeoLINK’s ecology and engineering consultants work with NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) and Port Stephens Council to find solutions to minimise koala deaths from vehicle strike.
Local koala population threatened
The Port Stephens local government area is home to one of the state’s largest Koala populations. Unfortunately, it also had the third highest number of Koala casualties on roads during spring 2019 behind the Lismore and Byron Bay local government areas.*
Despite already having a number of mitigation strategies in place, it was evident they were having little effect to improve the casualty statistics.
NSW DPIE Biodiversity and Conservation Division, supported by Port Stephens Council engaged GeoLINK to assist with identifying more effective mitigation strategies to reduce Koala deaths from vehicle strikes.
Existing mitigation strategies no longer working
Extensive signage across the Port Stephens Shire warning drivers to slow down and to be Koala aware was having limited impact on reducing the number of Koala fatalities and injuries due to vehicle strike.
Increased measures such as signage displaying fatality counts were also used to provide emotional triggers to drivers. Yet driver complacency and speed meant this signage was not having the desired effect to minimise Koala deaths.
Port Stephens Council was faced with the realisation it’s very difficult to influence drivers to reduce their vehicle speed. Alternative solutions were needed
GeoLINKs team focused on Port Stephens Drive, a hot spot that ranked in the top two worst Koala vehicle strike roads in the state. It’s a main arterial road that directs many vehicles on the Port Stephens peninsula into the developed urban and industrial areas.
This location posed a number of challenges for the GeoLINK team:
GeoLINK identified a number of key contributors to the high casualty rates.
With speed limits for the most part along Port Stephens Drive being 80km/hr the ability of drivers to react and avoid collision is minimal.
Time of year
Koala vehicle strikes mainly occur between July and November. This coincides with Koala mating season when males are actively moving around the landscape in search of new territory and mates.
Time of day
Koalas are most active in the early morning and evening when they’re more likely to cross roads when there are low-light conditions at dawn and dusk.
Narrow road shoulders, steep batters and turns along with roadside vegetation along Port Stephens Drive can affect driver visibility and their ability to see Koalas on the road.
Port Stephens Drive has become increasingly busier. The number of vehicle strike increases accordingly with increasing traffic volume.
Expertise in environmental management
GeoLINK brought their expertise in environmental management to the fore with this project. Multi-disciplinary input was needed.
Expertise in ecology, environmental assessment, road engineering and traffic management were all provided by GeoLINK for the successful delivery of this project. Our holistic approach not only provided reassurance to the client it also meant the project was delivered on-time and on-budget.
The challenge was to find effective mitigation strategies that would effectively reduce casualties yet still allowed the koalas to move through their natural, designated corridors.
Following investigative assessment of the interacting wildlife and human landscape, the GeoLINK team recommended two key mitigation strategies:
The fencing serves two purposes. It prevents the Koalas from entering the busy road, which posed such a threat. It also guides the koalas toward safe crossing points.
Exclusion fencing guides the Koalas to culvert underpasses that have been specifically developed for koalas to cross Port Stephens Drive safely.
Other strategies included over-road crossing zones in locations with existing or proposed speed limit reductions. This creates a sense of place to increase driver awareness and manage vehicle speed. It included:
Underpinned by government framework
The NSW government is committed to stabilising and subsequently increasing the number of Koalas in the wild. With $44.7 million committed to support the implementation of the NSW Koala Strategy, opportunity exists for effective mitigation solutions to be implemented more widely across the state.
GeoLINK is proud to have partnered with NSW DPIE and Port Stephens Council. Port Stephens Council’s commitment to koala conservation places them as leaders in the race to safeguard Koalas against the many threats they are facing.
Get in touch to find out more about environmental and conservation mitigation strategies.
*Source: NSW OEH 2019