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World Rally races threaten endangered Koalas in bio-diverse Kyogle shire

Kathryn Kermode, who lives on the route of the World Rally Championship races planned for Kyogle and Tweed Shires, planned for September and every second year until at least 2019, shows how the races further compound the threats faced by the endangered Koala from rampant overdevelopment elsewhere in northern NSW and across the border in Queensland. This letter was sent to the Tweed Echo newspaper.

Unbearable Bad Taste

Millions of Koalas were killed for their thick grey fur back in the old days of the late 1800s and early 1900s and in fact, in one month alone in 1927, 800,000 Koalas lost their lives to fuel the North American fur trade. We have come a long way as a Nation in recognising the barbarity of these now outlawed practices but can we do more to protect our harmless and iconic Koala? In 2009 the Koala is on the Threatened Species List, listed as vulnerable to extinction in NSW so why is the State Government so keen to sponsor Repco Rally Australia's, World Rally Championship (WRC) which plans to race rally cars through a Koala corridor and well known Koala Habitat? It makes me wonder what century we live in as Politicians from Parliament right down to the Local Kyogle Shire Council are endorsing a dinosaur car race that wants to secure the region for staging the Rally every second year for another 10 years! Can you imagine facing your children in 2019 and trying to explain that when you had the chance to say enough, you let it pass by? And can you also imagine your children explaining to their children how back in the old days, in 2009, Local Government was so ignorant they didn't evolve a Koala Management Plan and that's why the only Koalas you see today are in a zoo. Councils that border Green Zones and National and World Heritage Parks should have lots of Environmental Plans in place to protect these unique parts of Australia for future generations. I know that Kyogle Council, the tiny and cash strapped Shire who will be processing Repco Rally Australia's humongous Development Application does not even have an Events Policy in place to guide their decision making.

The WRC is scheduled to run for several days finishing, ironically, on September 7, National Threatened Species Day. Perhaps even more ironically, these dates coincide with the Koala breeding season, a time when this animal is most at risk from death and injury on roads. I don't believe the WRC organisers can guarantee that Koalas, their habitat and feed trees will not be harmed during the sporting event, despite any stringent safety conditions that may be imposed upon them. It's not rocket science to realise that when a car is travelling at speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, no living creature would have a fighting chance, should anything go wrong.

Those of us who live beside the Koalas of Sargents Road in the Kyogle Shire know they spend hours in the trees on the verge of that road. We are baffled that Council has not considered the Koala's relaxed proximity as special, as a drawcard even for an altogether different kind of Tourism, perhaps a more sustainable, slow and low impact tourist attraction like Koala Watching! It's a clear majority of residents along this road who don't want to host the Rally, not this year and definitely not every second year until 2019. Already though we are paying a high price for our opposition. In the greater community, the Rally has become insidiously divisive and is exacting its toll upon those who feel obliged to fight this Goliath like oppressor.

Let's face it, car rallying has limited appeal, it's not something many of us are remotely interested in especially when you consider that we have all chosen quiet and tranquil parts of the country to build our homes in. We have obviously chosen peace, quiet and privacy and all of these things will be confounded by the World Rally Championship when it blows into town. Our skies will be swarming with dozens and dozens of helicopters hovering at low level, perhaps even as many as 60 plus, a number recorded at one of the World Rally's Irish stages. Our country roads will be filled with motor sports enthusiasts, pumped on the adrenalin of watching crashes and near misses and cars lurching sideways around tight corners.

But who is really paying for this bit of pointless entertainment? You are, taxpayers, whether you like it or not. And we, the residents of the Wollumbin Caldera of Australia's Green Cauldron are paying with our rights. Our right to say no appears not to belong to us and we are being told to stand by mute while the jewel of the rainforest is stolen from us. One day we will all realize that our Threatened Species, our Biodiverse Hot Spots, our dramatic National landscapes are our most prized possessions, our Nation's Jewels, and the likes of the Kings of the Motor Sports Industry are our Nation's Jewel thieves. Repco Rally Australia's, World Rally Championship cannot showcase our region's Rainforests while simultaneously polluting our clean environment with heavy emissions. Repco Rally Australia's, WRC is in essence, a threat to all rainforests, all Biodiverse green belts and definitely all Koala habitat. I believe the writing is on the wall for elite Motor Sports. Sponsors of the industry are obviously finding more and more reasons to pull out of the costly competitions and attempts by Rally organisers to meet Environmental guidelines are looking increasingly oxymoronic, to put it nicely.

No, those who want to run car rallies should find themselves 340 km of road through Radiata Pine Forests and Plantations, not Biodiverse hotspots, Koala corridors and residential properties. If anyone can be accused of trying to ruin the party, it's Repco Rally Australia and not the brave locals standing up to them.

See also: "Development project threatens second largest Koala Colony in Tweed Shire" of 21 Feb 09, "Kyogle residents fight World Rally motor race" of 7 Mar 09.