Three levels of government guilty of failing to protect koalas

It’s up to us now: with three levels of government failing to protect koalas, the community has to take a stand to ensure we don’t lose our national icon says the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA).

It’s a sad truth that the NSW and federal governments don’t seem to care about koala conservation. They are leaving the heavy lifting to cash-strapped community groups and non-governmental organisations.

Let’s start at the top. In 2011, a federal Senate review called ‘the koala—saving our national icon’ made 19 recommendations[1]. Just four have been implemented, but no practical, on-ground measures.

Since then, astonishingly, the federal government has allowed the National Koala Conservation and Management strategy (the plan) to lapse.

We have gone almost an entire year with no plan in place for Australia’s national icon, and we still await a review of the old plan that expired in 2014. It’s vital that we know what the plan did and did not achieve so that we can do better next time.

The NSW government has performed even worse. Their plan[2] is two years out of date with no review forthcoming. Environment Minister, the Hon Mark Speakman, said in estimates hearings that a strategy would be prepared for koalas.

But the big question is whether this will happen before or after they become extinct—perhaps as soon as 2055.

To make matters worse, the NSW government has just nobbled the north coast councils’ ability to establish environmental zones[3]. Another nail in the koala coffin.

The state government has trumpeted their commitment of $100 million to threatened species conservation. But coming on the back of $80 million worth of cuts[4] it ceases to look impressive—especially when shared among 973 threatened species.

That’s just $20,554 per species, inclusive of staff time, over five years. It’s safe to say there won’t be much slack in the budget to add koala habitat to the protected area network!

Local government areas (LGA’s) have done a bit better. Some, like Wingecarribee, Gunnedah and Coffs Harbour, are taking the initiative in protecting koalas.

But several LGAs have yet to prepare Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management, required under state government law to guide development in koala habitat. And in preparation of the Bellingen plan, the area of core koala habitat was reduced by 40%[5], leaving it open to logging.

What all this tells us is that we can’t rely on government to protect koalas for us. The community must take the initiative: take part in the Koala Count between 7th and 22nd November[6], talk to your neighbours and protect koala habitat if you’re lucky enough to own some.

Perhaps if we work together and put pressure on all levels of government we can save our icon.

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