The following existing environmental safeguards do not provide adequate protection for threatened species at the Black Rocks sports field site as they are flawed and/or have not been monitored and/or enforced:-
• Black Rocks Independent Koala Plan of Management 2004 (IKPoM)
The Black Rocks IKPoM is outdated, has never been fully implemented, and does not reflect current koala usage and quality of habitat and the need for increased koala protection.
• Gap in koala/dog-proof fence
As required by the Black Rocks IKPoM, a continuous koala/dog-proof fence separates the Black Rocks by the Sea residential estate from the koala habitat. However, there is a gap in this fence which renders it almost ineffective.
• Limited effectiveness of koala protection gate
Council denied vehicle access to the sports field by installing a permanently locked boom gate at the access road entrance between June 2013 and September 2014 to stop hooning, vandalism and wild parties and increase koala protection. During this time the incidence of hooning decreased (except during sporting events when the boom gate was open).
Upon the recommendation of council's Koala Advisory Committee (KAC) to also prevent dog entry, the boom gate was replaced with koala/dog-proof vehicle access gates in September 2014, with day and night pedestrian/wheelchair access through self-latching gates. However, council voted to leave the vehicle access gates open during the day (against a further recommendation by KAC for these gates to be locked both day and night except during sporting events).
[NOTE: The Barry Sheppard sports field at Hastings Point (which does not have a continuous koala/dog-proof fence because there are less environmental values) has a permanently locked vehicle access gate which is open only during sporting events.
Whilst the gates are in place, left open and unattended, there needs to be a koala grid installed in conjunction with the gates to prevent koalas entering the urban footprint. However, a grid will not stop dogs entering koala habitat as there is evidence that dogs are capable of traversing grids
• Unenforced dog and cat restriction
1. RESIDENTIAL ESTATE:
The 'limited dog and no cat rule' has not been enforced in the Black Rocks by the Sea residential estate, as required by the Black Rocks IKPoM and 88B instrument, with cats and prohibited aggressive breeds of dogs residing in the estate. These dogs often roam free in close proximity to the access road entrance near where koalas have previously been sighted.
2. SPORTS FIELD, ACCESS ROAD AND ADJACENT BUSHLAND
The 'no dog rule' has not been enforced within this site, with many evidenced and reported incidences of leashed and unleashed dogs even though there are three 'no dog' signs. Dogs and their owners have easy access during the day whilst the koala/dog-proof vehicle access gates are open, and can also access the sports field site through the self-latching pedestrian/ wheelchair gates when these gates are locked. After entering the sports field site, unleashed dogs are free to enter the bushland at any point along the 1.5km of exposed edges.
Email dated 4/3/2014 from Regulatory Services, Tweed Shire council: “So far, Council's Rangers have not observed dogs being walked through the sports field or anyone acting contrary to Council signs - such as playing golf. However, due to Council's limited resources we cannot patrol at a greater frequency, and we understand that it would not be difficult for these activities to occur at times when Rangers are not present.”
• Unenforced motor cycle restrictions
The 'no motor cycle rule' has not been enforced, with numerous evidenced and reported incidences of noisy motor/trail/mini bikes riding on the sports field, access road and in the adjacent bushland, even though there is a 'no motor cycle' sign at the entrance to the access road. Motor bikes have easy access to the site during the day when the koala/dog-proof vehicle access gates are open.
• Unenforced golf restrictions
The 'no golf rule' has not been enforced. Golfers regularly use long distance golf sticks for practice on the sports field even though there is a 'no golf' sign at the entrance, with reported evidence of golfers hitting balls, a golfer entering the bushland to retrieve balls, and numerous golf balls found deep into the adjacent bushland including primary koala habitat and in close proximity to the osprey nest.
• Disregarded educational signage
Two educational signs (at the access road and sports field entrances) indicate the environmental significance of the bushland surrounding the subject site, with information about the koala and bush stone-curlew. Those engaged in illegal and/or threatened species-impactive activities ignore these signs.
• Ineffective traffic calming
As a result of ongoing reported evidence of hoons and other motorists bypassing the four speed humps on the access road by driving on the grass verge adjacent to a koala breeding area where koalas have been sighted on or either side of the access road during the day, in January 2015 council resolved to prepare a report on how hooning can be stopped. In December 2015 council resolved to install bollards adjacent to the three speed humps on the grass verge on the northern side of the access road. The council report states: The photographic evidence supplied is predominantly of wheel ruts from vehicles driving on the wet grass road verge and not the circular pattern and level of damage generally associated with ‘hooning’. However, photos taken by the local resident to which the report refers clearly indicate that the wheel ruts and burn-outs are 'hoon-like'. In January 2016 the bollards were installed, and only 12 days after their installation another hooning event occurred. See hoons.
All council’s attempts to protect koalas at the Black Rocks sports field have been to no avail as there has been insufficient monitoring and enforcement. After over 300 complaints to council the Threatened Species Conservation Society is not aware of one single person being prosecuted