The recent discovery of a hitherto unknown species of tree in the Coffs Harbour hinterland has generated a degree of interest in certain quarters, mainly because they are about to be dug up to make way for the city’s Pacific Highway bypass.
Appeals for the highway route to be diverted in order to avoid the destruction of the rare forest remnant have been rejected by the RMS, which in turn has led to the trees being nominated for listing as critically endangered in an attempt to save them.
However, if we look back to similar calls to protect rare or endangered species in the path of the ‘upgrade’, and the intractability of the Roads and Maritime Services when facing such barriers, it would appear highly unlikely that any adjustment of the route will be considered. As a result, with calls for DNA testing likewise being rejected, these trees will likely disappear almost before they are officially discovered.
Looking back, readers will recall similar cases on the North Coast. For example, where the highway was built right through the middle of the endangered Coastal Emus’ habitat, a decision which if not directly causing the inevitable extinction of the population, has certainly provided a pretty solid nail for the coffin.
Then there was the discovery of three breeding populations of the endangered Coastal Petaltail Dragonfly within the proposed highway corridor north of Tucabia. The RMS had previously declared that the species was most likely locally extinct in the Valley, and continued to procrastinate over the issue while their bulldozers were set to work destroying all three sites.
Then of course, there was the infamous rejection of evidence that the proposed route north of Wardell would have a serious impact on Koalas, a species now predicted to become extinct in NSW within 30 years.
There are, no doubt, more cases we could quote but the RMS’s attitude, which Jodi Mitchell so aptly summed up with her classic song, “Big Yellow Taxi”, has remained stubbornly unyielding throughout. This latest proposal to ‘relocate’ the inconvenient trees from the Coffs Harbour bypass is a classic case of “take all the trees and put them in a tree museum”, and they have already paved a huge chunk of paradise to allow for more emissions-intensive road transport.
So, when it comes to the inevitable local extinction of our iconic wildlife, we should erect a plaque on the highway acknowledging “RIP, courtesy of RMS”.