The NSW government was today spruiking the allocation of $800,000 to koala research in the NSW budget. But its failure to translate knowledge to policy reinforces how out of touch it is on the plight of koalas and nature more generally says the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA).
Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney, said: “more research on threatened species is always welcome, and tracking koala movements has been very informative and led to surprising findings.
“The problem is, this government ignores scientific findings and chooses to implement policy that directly contradicts what we know we need to do to protect threatened species.
“For example, tracking koalas in Gunnedah and the Southern Highlands has shown they use large paddock trees in times of heat stress, and small woodland patches to move around the landscape.
“Yet under the government’s new land clearing model, large paddock trees and woodland patches are open slather for clearing under the equity and farm plan codes.
“We know that koalas don’t like their habitat being sliced and diced into little pieces, but under the equity code up to 625ha of bushland can be cleared in any three-year period.
“We know that koalas like big trees and mature forests, but the government’s proposing to change logging laws to legalise large-scale clearfell logging on public land that contains valuable koala habitat.
“We know that as the climate changes the koala’s distribution will shift eastwards. But instead of protecting koala habitat on the eastern seaboard and linking it to western areas, the government’s failing to regulate urban expansion and encouraging land clearing.
“What’s the point of more research if the government refuses to act on what it already knows it must do to protect koalas?
NPA CEO, Kevin Evans said: “yet again we hear an announcement from government that tells us how much money’s being spent on protecting koalas. No doubt koalas will be thrilled to read the budget figures.
“But $10 million is peanuts—going on the government’s leaked figures for Royal National Park last week, $40 million buys you 60 hectares. At those prices, the $10 million would therefore buy a miserly 15 hectares of koala habitat.
“We’re yet to see a commitment from this government on protecting important koala habitat—in fact, they seem to be doing everything they can to avoid protecting habitat for any species, as national park creation in general has slowed massively under the Coalition.
“Far from being political gimmicks—as the Minister asserted a couple of weeks ago—national parks are the cornerstone of conservation efforts the world over.
“We need large, well connected protected areas like our Great Koala National Park proposal if we’re to protect koalas in their natural habitat.
“The Great Koala National Park is the best bang for buck on offer: because it’s 100% public land, it’s free to create if we get the timing right.
“We would be better using the $10 million to buy out timber contracts, transition affected workers and create the infrastructure necessary for local economies to benefit from nature-based tourism.”
Kevin Evans, CEO: 0457 797 977
Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist: 0431 251 194