Koala corridors part of the plan as Appin Road upgrade linking Sydney and Wollongong gets approval

A major road linking south-west Sydney to Wollongong has received state government approval for a long-awaited upgrade that accounts for impacts on a growing koala colony.

A 5.5-kilometre section of Appin Road between Mount Gilead and Ambarvale is set to be widened, more than five years after plans were submitted.

Developer Lendlease will fund a $170-million roads package to widen a section of the road from two to four lanes.

It is part of building a new entrance to their Figtree Hill housing estate, which will initially deliver 450 new homes 10 minutes’ drive south of Campbelltown.

The road will also serve as a link between south-west Sydney and an area where tens of thousands of new homes are being built.

“The upgrade to Appin Road will also deliver protections for koalas and other wildlife with the construction of underpasses and koala fencing,” a Lendlease statement said.

“The final design of the underpasses has been determined by Transport for NSW and is based on best practice and comparable underpasses used by koalas elsewhere in NSW.”

A male koala at a service station in Appin

A koala at a service station on Appin Road, oblivious to the threats from motor vehicles.(Supplied: Ricardo Lonza)

Transport for NSW has faced criticism for the time it has taken to approve the project and for pushing for changes to the design of two proposed wildlife corridors to run under the road.

“Determining an underpass design that koalas are likely to use, combined with a fencing strategy to stop koalas crossing Appin Road has been a complex undertaking — right down to the shape of the culverts themselves,” a Transport for NSW spokesperson said.

“It has taken time to get this right.”

Saving koalas numbers is critical to any plan for the area, with 30 koalas deaths on the road recorded in 2023, around 10 per cent of the colony.

Wildlife group wants more

Colin Salter from the wildlife rescue group WIRES welcomes the move to enhance koala protections, saying the decision to use boxed culverts under the road instead of the round pipes earlier proposed by Transport for NSW is the right move.

“They have taken on not just WIRES’ feedback but the broader community feedback that that design was inadequate, and they are replacing those with what are called reinforced box culverts,” Dr Salter said.

“We would like to see if they are going to go with box culverts to have double box culverts, which means two side by side.”

Dr Salter would also like to see a third wildlife corridor located at Mallaty Creek, between the two proposed for Noorumba Reserve and Beulah.

Map showing proposed location of the road upgrades

A map shows proposed location of road upgrades and koala underpasses on Appin Road.(Supplied: Transport for NSW)

“Mallaty Creek sort of sits in between and it’s a highly trafficked area for koalas and other wildlife and there is a high incidence of koalas being killed in that location,” he said.

“We suggest that there needs to be another overpass built there as well and many members of the community and other organisations are advocating for that.”

Dr Salter says the removal of a significant number of trees along the side of the road where it is set to be widened will also likely have a significant impact on koalas.

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