Coomera Connector Road Update - 5th January 2021
The Coomera Connector (or M2):
This is a proposed 4-6 lane highway with speeds up to 100km/h which will run roughly parallel to the east of the M1 and which is purported to remove 60,000 vehicles from the M1 and reduce congestion on the M1. However the end result will be 14 lanes of traffic from the Gold Coast to the Logan Motorway and no increase in public transport patronage.
At present there is funding of $1.53 billion for Stage 1 only and the project will begin mid-year with the construction of the Coomera River Bridge. Stage 1 is from Nerang to Coomera. Public consultation is likely in the first half of 2021.
There are many impacts of such a major road as detailed below and Gecko is requesting the following to address these to some degree:-
- Immediate identification and purchase of habitat offset properties
- Legally binding contracts drawn up that formalize cost, ownership and long term responsibility for the final land package
- Early rehabilitation and restoration of degraded ecosystems in preparation for relocated wildlife and improvement of wildlife habitat in situ.
- Replanting of Casuarina glauca lost to clearing
- Implementation of all suggested wildlife movement systems and exclusion and directional fencing.
- Clear implementation of efforts to eradicate feral species along the route.
- Monitoring of and improvements of water quality in all water bodies including overflow area of Coombabah Lake and installation of gross pollutant traps.
- Monitoring, auditing and public accounting of relocations of wildlife.
- Offsets of vegetation to replace vegetation which is currently absorbing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Effective and attractive noise barriers.
More detail on the impacts can be seen below.
- Wildlife and habitat is at risk, especially koala habitat and this is a major concern as koala numbers are in decline in Gold Coast City and the koala is listed by the Federal Government as Vulnerable. The Koala Management Plan, related to the Coomera Connector, should be released early 2021 and there will be opportunity for public consultation. Gecko is strongly advocating for immediate purchase of additional habitat for relocation of koalas and other wildlife. If the habitat substitute needs remediation that this should begin now and there should be early relocation before habitat is destroyed. The road has been referred to the Environment Protection Biodiversity and Conservation Unit in Canberra for assessment (Ref: EPBC Referral 2020/8646) and we are awaiting the public environment report which will go out to public consultation.
- Greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions from transport are 14% of all emissions and the Government has stated that it is committed to the reduction of such emissions through the “greater use of shared transport”. “The major source of the problem is cars, responsible for roughly half of Australia’s greenhouse gas pollution from transport. In fact, Australian cars emit roughly the same per year as Queensland’s entire coal and gas fired electricity supply “as stated by the Climate Council which continues with “The reasons for Australia’s poor performance include:
- High polluting cars
- Lack of greenhouse gas emissions standards
- High car use
- Relatively high distances travelled per person by car
- Low share of trips taken by public transport
- Low ratio of capital spending on public transport compared to roads” (https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/transport-emissions-and-climate-solutions/)
The increase of 6 lanes of traffic on the proposed Coomera Connector will not reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that the Government has stated it wants to reduce because it continues to encourage the use of fossil fuelled cars. Further the Coomera Connector will result in the destruction of considerable hectares of vegetation that at present is sequestering carbon so adding to the problem. Offsets are needed for greenhouse gas emissions as well as wildlife habitat destroyed by this road.
- Air pollution is a well-recognised problem associated with major highways. Local people that will be living adjacent to the Coomera Connector are very concerned about this as the health impacts are serious. Some residents will be sandwiched between the M1 and the Coomera Connector. The impacts of air pollution from vehicles can be read in more detail here https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/27/impact-of-air-pollution-on-health-may-be-far-worse-than-thought-study suggests?utm_term=RWRpdG9yaWFsX0dyZWVuTGlnaHQtMTkxMjAy&utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&CMP=greenlight_email&utm_campaign=GreenLight .
- Noise pollution is also a major issue which the Department of Transport and Main Roads are hoping to address with noise barriers of various styles. These will ameliorate the problems to some extent, but there are gaps where noise escapes such as bridges and on and off ramps. The impact of noise on health are considerable (https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/A12B57E41EC9F326CA257BF0001F9E7D/$File/health-effects-Environmental-Noise-2018.pdf)
Current situation: There have been several opportunities for public consultation for Stage 1 from Nerang to Pimpama and the establishment of a community reference group and there will be additional public consultation this year. Gecko has made several substantial submissions citing issues with greenhouse gas emissions, noise and air pollution, destruction of habitat including koala habitat, severing of communities etc and the failure of TMR to promote and provide public transport as an alternative. Requests for a copy of the alternatives or ‘Options Report’ has been refused Gecko is working with Coomera Conservation Group and others in trying to get the best outcome for wildlife through offsets, relocation and wildlife movement systems. The campaign is ongoing. Stage 2 from Pimpama to Eagleby is even more damaging to koala habitat and the wetlands and there is a very active group in Eagleby opposing this.