The Greens have stepped up a community campaign to save koala habitat from development at Port Stephens.
Legislation will be introduced to the NSW Parliament this week to compulsorily acquire the controversial Mambo Wetlands site and its koala habitat at Salamander Bay.
“We simply cannot allow this land to be cleared and developed,” Greens NSW MP and environment spokeswoman, Dr Mehreen Faruqi, said.
“We cannot afford to lose the lungs of Port Stephens. This area is essential for the area’s environmental health.”
Port Stephens Council is considering a development application for a dual occupancy on the site.
Controversy erupted last year over the NSW government’s sale of the land, which the Department of Education no longer wanted.
Port Stephens MP Kate Washington, citizens and the council had urged the NSW government to conserve the land instead of selling it, but this was ignored.
About 200 people protested on the site a week ago, at which calls were made for the Berejiklian government to protect the land.
The Greens recommend compulsory acquisition.
“The legislation to bring this land back into public hands will be sitting there, waiting to be enacted. All they [the government] need to do is support it,” Dr Faruqi said.
“The community, even local Liberal councillors, are up in arms about this sale.
“The government cannot continue to ignore this strong community campaign.”
Dr Faruqi called on the government to pass the legislation and compensate the owner, developer Paul Unicomb, with an “ex-gratia payment”.
“Permanent protection is the only option for such a precious environmental and community area,” she said.
“With the government’s land-clearing laws now in effect, I fear for what might happen to this land and the koala habitat it contains.”
Ms Washington said recently that the land was crucial to “ensuring the survival of koalas in our area”.
The land, which was sold in an online auction for $250,000, has a zoning known as “E2 environmental conservation”, under which dual occupancies are allowed with consent.
The development application said the proposal “has been positioned to largely avoid areas of preferred koala habitat”.
“No preferred feed tree species will be required to be removed,” it said.
It said the plan would cause “an incremental reduction of supplementary koala habitat”.
However, it added that the plan’s “mitigation measures” meant it was unlikely to have a significant effect on the koala population or other threatened flora and fauna.