Great Koala National Park Update – March 2019

What’s going on?

There’s a lot of activity happening on the Coffs Coast around the Great Koala National Park! Right now, ads are running in cinemas in both Sawtell and Nambucca highlighting the benefits that the GKNP would bring to the local area in regards sustainable, nature-based tourism and benefits to small business. Local groups, including Nambucca Valley Conservation Association, the Bellingen Environment Centre and NPA’s revitalised Coffs Coast Branch are working hard to develop tourism and outdoor recreation offerings to make sure that a future GKNP will be not only a key conservation tool for koalas, but a world-class tourism destination that will provide a wealth of activities for locals and visitors alike. NPA’s Forests For All policy provides the framework by which recreational activities are located and impacts minimised. In February, NPA’s Senior Ecologist, Oisín Sweeney, spoke about the GKNP at ‘The Big Idea with a Big Future’ event hosted by the Bowraville Chamber of Commerce in Nambucca – one of the five local government areas that would benefit from the GKNP – and two community forums were held in Sydney where candidates were asked about the GKNP and how they would protect koalas.

Where the politicians stand

Creating the GKNP is a key ask in ‘A Cleaner, Greener NSW’ – the joint environment group platform for the 2019 NSW election. Valuable political support for the GKNP was given by Labor’s candidate for Cowper, Andrew Woodward, and federal Senator Jenny McAllister in a visit to the area in July 2018.

This backs up State Labor’s commitment to the GKNP. The Greens are also supportive of the GKNP with both their Forests and Environment spokespeople publicly committing to the plan. Unfortunately, despite repeated efforts, we have been unable thus far to secure support from the Coalition for the GKNP. We’ll keep trying, because as more and more evidence builds as to the worrying trends of koala populations, we hope that the Coalition will change its policy.

The Great Koala National Park is more urgent than ever

Following the release of the NSW Koala Strategy in May 2018, NPA sought data through freedom of information on koala work being done by the Office of Environment and Heritage. The data identified ‘koala hubs’ – defined broadly as areas occupied by koalas over time – throughout NSW. The hubs data clearly highlighted the GKNP as a key area for koalas and supported other NPA koala reserve proposals on the north coast contained in our ’50 Parks’ document. So we’re more confident that ever that the GKNP is in the right place. NPA also collaborated on a critique of the NSW Koala Strategy in late 2018 which found that the strategy can’t work to reverse koala declines because it largely ignores habitat loss from land clearing, logging and urban development. The lack of a coherent strategy, coupled with a new ‘intensive harvesting zone’ on the north coast – including many forests in the GKNP – makes the GKNP more urgent that ever if we’re serious about preventing extinctions of koalas.
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