Koala colonies face wipe-out as government ignores its experts

Freedom of information documents show we’re facing a koala colony wipe-out unless the government implements the Great Koala National Park and other key reserves

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) is renewing calls for the NSW Government to create the Great Koala National Park after documents obtained under freedom of information show that it’s the most important public land in NSW for koalas.

NPA sought documents and data under freedom of information after reserves announced in the NSW government’s koala strategy were shown to be already protected and contain few or no koalas.

Analysis of the documents confirmed that the government reserves fail to protect koalas. Just 0.2% of koala ‘hubs’ (areas of known koala occupancy) identified by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage are included in the government’s reserves. In contrast, a suite of reserve proposals made by NPA and other conservation groups showed strong overlap with hubs, with the Great Koala National Park alone containing 56% of hubs in north-east NSW.

Other key findings were:

  • Just 14% of hubs are currently protected. Most hubs (86%) are located on private land and state forests and are therefore threatened by logging, clearing and development.
  • The north coast ‘intensive harvesting zone’ between Taree and Grafton, that will see large areas of forests clearfelled, contains 33% (>5,000ha) of all hubs in state forests;
  • The north coast of NSW will be a climate refuge for koalas, so protecting habitat there is of paramount importance to the future of koalas in NSW;
  • Urban development on the north coast and in south-west Sydney is a serious threat to many koala populations.

“This analysis shows that unless the government starts taking koala protection seriously, we’re going to see the large-scale wipe-out of koala colonies in NSW”, said Dr Oisín Sweeney, Senior Ecologist with the National Parks Association of NSW.

“Logging, clearing and urban development are massive threats. We’ve recently seen how clearing has destroyed koala habitat near Moree, and we’re looking down the barrel on the north coast.

“The government’s strategy has reserves with no koalas. That’s not going to work. To protect koalas, we need to protect where they live, as well as protecting habitat to connect the colonies.

“The good news? The community has proposed nine koala reserves between Port Stephens and Tweed Heads that overlap closely with the government experts’ koala hubs. The government knows how it can protect koalas if it chooses to do so.

“The Great Koala National Park is clearly the most important area of public land in NSW and we call on the government to create it immediately as the biggest step towards saving koalas.

“We’ll also be writing to the federal Environment Minister, Melissa Price, to draw her attention to the cumulative impacts on koalas from land clearing, logging and urban development and urge her to use her power under federal law to intervene to save koalas in NSW.”

ENDS. Media contact: Oisín Sweeney (Senior Ecologist)

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