Lendlease's Figtree Hill Development Criticised for Not Following Koala Conservation Recommendations
Updated: Jul 20, 2022
Lendlease has faced criticism for not following the New South Wales' Chief Scientist's Report recommendations on their proposed Figtree Hill housing development in Campbelltown.
The Figtree Hill Koala Population
In September of 2021, Lendlease released a response to local environmental groups' calls for greater environmental protections for the koala population at the Figtree Hill development site. Lendlease stated that they had "put in place a $35 million comprehensive koala conservation plan to protect and grow koala habitat and corridors." This was despite Lendlease's claim that "...no koalas were detected on site during more than 1,700+ hours of ecological surveys and inspections."
However, a segment from Channel 9 News from March 2019 described how the proposed development site was already home to "Sydney's last healthy colony" of koalas with a population of 400. The segment continued with a press conference at the development site hosted by Gabriel Upton, then-Minister for the Environment, who responded to questions about the koala population:
"We believe there are koalas here...there may be a koala population who we want to protect if it all checks out..."
The Channel 9 News segment then shows footage taken 3 months prior of a koala only 50 meters away from the location of the press conference.
Development's Proposed Nature Corridors
The development has also faced criticism regarding the number of nature corridors planned for koalas. Despite the Chief Scientist's Report on the development recommending six continuous corridors averaging 420 meters in width for the site, Lendlease's proposal includes only two corridors, sometimes only measuring 80 meters at certain points, surrounding the perimeter of site's Stage 1 area.
In October of 2021, Lendlease insisted that it's proposal was "consistent" with the Chief Scientist's Report, with Lendlease's development director, Arthur Ilias, stating to a local planning panel that they are unable to widen the corridors due to the proximity of a nearby retirement village.
In September of 2021, Saul Deane, of the Total Environment Centre, stated that the Figtree Hill development would erode the koala habitat of the area and significantly reduce the outcomes of current efforts to mitigate the decline of the New South Wales koala population: "fracture koala habitat and have a devastating impact on efforts to reverse the decline of the New South Wales koala population:
"This is now the only recovering koala colony that we see in NSW. If you were orchestrating a deliberate war on koalas, this would be the mopping-up process to make sure they do go extinct. It is the only recovering koala colony in NSW and now they have declared it all as housing and they are going to go ahead with bio certification, and they have sidelined a koala plan of management. This is probably the point where we know that koalas are doomed deliberately by the actions of NSW Planning."
Petition to Save Koalas of Sydney
A petition is currently ongoing within the NSW Parliament in response to the Figtree Hill development with the following requests:
"We ask the Legislative Assembly to:
1. Declare an Upper Georges River Koala National Park,
2. Stop the rezoning of Stage 2 of the Gilead development and review the approval of Stage 1 , 3. Build five effective Koala crossings on Appin Road and
4. Implement minimum 450m wide Koala corridors across the rivers and creeks of Macarthur