A booming koala population in the Lue area has sparked calls for an immediate assessment of a silver and lead mine's potential impact on the vulnerable species.
Concerned about the growth in koala sightings in the region, Greens MP and mining spokesperson Cate Faehrmann visited Lue this week to meet with the Mudgee Region Action Group.
Ms Faehrmann says that more koalas may be moving into the area due to climate change. She wants a comprehensive assessment of the entire project area to be undertaken by independent, qualified koala experts, something which she says has not occurred.
"I was contacted last year by a number of members of the Lue community, the Mudgee Region Action Group in particular, alerting me to an increase in koala sightings," Ms Faehrmann said.
"People sent me photos of koalas in trees, koalas and joeys in trees, as well as hearing about koalas that weren't in great condition being found on the road and taken to wildlife hospitals.
"I was concerned about this, particularly because a fair few of the photos of koalas in the trees were in the areas that were within the project footprint of the mine, which meant that a decent number of them would be cleared."
The Mudgee Guardian reported in December that a spate of recent koala sightings is turning on its head the idea that the Mid-Western region is not a typical home for koalas.
A Bowdens spokesperson told the Mudgee Guardian that any impacts the mine may have will be minimal.
"Over many years, our biodiversity surveys including koala have been comprehensive, concluding that the project will have very minor impacts. In any case, our small footprint will be fully offset through a Biodiversity Management Plan," the spokesperson said.
Ms Faehrmann was chair of the Parliamentary Inquiry into Koala Populations and Habitat in NSW which reported on 30 June 2020 and said after speaking with a number of experts in the field over the last several years, it was clear that something is changing and there is now a healthy koala population in the Mudgee region.
"... the number of koala sightings in the area, I think is quite a decent number in terms of indicating that there's a healthy koala population in this area and in the Mudgee region," Ms Faehrmann said.
"It's great if there's a healthy population, but it's extremely concerning because of the amount of hectares that will be cleared for this [mine] project, much of it koala habitat as well as the critically-endangered regent honeyeater habitat and other threatened species.
"There doesn't seem to have been any, in any way, a thorough assessment of koalas on the project footprint and koala habitat. That's totally unacceptable in 2024 after the bushfires, after the koala, that koalas have been listed as endangered at the state and federal levels. It's totally unacceptable."
Ms Faehrmann said she is committed to getting the issue 'front and centre' with plans to bring the issue to the Parliament next week and at an upcoming Senate Estimates.
"You can guarantee that - this koala population that is clearly here just doesn't stand a chance if that mine goes ahead," Ms Faehrmann said.
"The government is essentially wiping out that koala population."