A planning authority has deferred a decision on the first stage of a proposed new town north of Raymond Terrace to seek its "own independent advice" on the area's koala population.
The Newcastle Herald reported two weeks ago that Port Stephens Council had recommended the Hunter Central Coast Regional Planning Panel approve a developer's concept plans for the first half of the huge 3500-lot Kings Hill housing estate.
But the panel decided to postpone its determination.
"Given the complexity of the matter the panel has decided to seek its own independent advice," it said.
"The panel acknowledged the heightened concern regarding koalas."
Kingshill Development plans to build 1900 houses on part of a 517-hectare urban release area beside the Pacific Highway.
The company also proposes to fence off 244 hectares of its land as a conservation area.
The panel said it would meet again after obtaining technical advice, briefing NSW Biodiversity Conservation Division and receiving a new supplementary report from the council's independent ecology expert.