The Roads and Maritime Service is denying claims it has deliberately delayed the release of a report on koalas living near the route of the Ballina and Woolgoolga Pacific Highway upgrade.
Conservationists are concerned that the preferred route through the Blackall Range near Wardell would bisect the habitat of a significant koala colony.
The route has been approved by the Federal Government, but conditions were imposed requiring the RMS to demonstrate that any impact on the koalas could be properly managed.
Project manager Bob Higgins said preparation of a Ballina koala plan was taking longer than expected.
“We were hoping to have it out before Christmas, that was the plan,” he said.
“But what we’re doing is going through and doing the final checks and balances, because it’s a very important issue for everyone involved.
“This report is being peer reviewed and those sorts of things just to make sure that we’ve got the issues fully covered and addressed before it’s released.
“There’s a lot of effort that actually has gone into it.
“Experts … have been gathering the information and writing these reports and peer reviewing the report.
“We’re putting input into it, but these are the people that are writing and making these assessments.”
Mr Higgins said the koala report should be completed in “the coming weeks”.
Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson has been campaigning to have the route changed for more than two years, and remained suspicious about the process.
“To my understanding there are conflicting views as to the proposed impact that the highway deviation would cause,” he said.
“With the RMS withholding this crucial information from the public, it tells me that they don’t like what the studies are saying and that they are trying to find another way to comply with the Federal Government’s condition.”