Deputy Greens leader Mehreen Faruqi and her husband plan to cut down 20 trees at her investment property in Port Macquarie and subdivide it to build three double-storey townhouses.
In a controversial move, the Port Macquarie Hastings Council granted approval for the development in May, estimating its cost at $1.5 million. However, the proposed construction involves the removal of numerous trees, including a hollow-bearing tree that provides habitat for native animals, as noted in council documents.
An ecological report submitted to the council warned that the majority of vegetation on the site near Lighthouse Beach would be lost due to the development. The report stated that both native and exotic trees would be removed, including significant species such as Figs, Guioa, Tuckeroo, fruit trees, and Tree Ferns.
Port Macquarie is home to approximately 2,000 koalas, making it one of the largest koala populations in New South Wales. The area is renowned for its koala hospital.
However, habitat destruction, such as land clearing, poses a significant threat to the already endangered marsupials. The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has predicted that koalas may become extinct in the wild by 2050.
Despite an ecological assessment claiming there were no koala food trees on the property, fresh koala droppings were discovered on its boundary. While the report suggested the development would not have significant adverse impacts on the local koala population, it acknowledged that the broader area serves as a potential foraging resource.
To mitigate ecological damage, the report outlined several measures, including pre-clearing surveys, clearing supervision, weed control, and the installation of replacement fauna nest boxes. A spokesperson for the Greens senator asserted that the application fulfilled all ecological requirements.
The Greens MP and her husband acquired the property for $250,000 in 2001, and with the median house price in Port Macquarie now at $851,159, their investment is expected to yield substantial returns.
The new townhouses will expand the MP's property portfolio, which already includes two properties in inner Sydney and a parcel of land in Lahore, Pakistan.
The development has drawn criticism from environmental activists and locals, highlighting the MP's previous advocacy against forest logging and koala habitat destruction. In 2016, she opposed the duplication of the Pacific Highway on the NSW north coast, citing concerns about clearing koala habitats.
While the MP has been vocal about protecting koalas, her involvement in a development that encroaches on their habitat has raised eyebrows. Concerns have been raised about the absence of affordable housing provisions, as the Greens have consistently blocked Labor's $10 billion Housing Australia Future Fund, which aims to build 30,000 social and affordable housing units.
The Greens party has instead called for rent freezes and capped increases, despite constitutional limitations on the federal government's authority over rent control.