Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis.
Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis.

KOALA-GATE: Gulaptis rejects claims of ‘mistruths’

CLARENCE MP Chris Gulaptis shows no sign of backing down on koala policy and has gone on the offensive over claims of 'mistruths'.

Mr Gulaptis was speaking after an extraordinary backdown from National Party leader John Barilaro this morning after yesterday threatening to lead almost all National Party members to the crossbench.

After being the first MP to signal he would be prepared to move to the crossbench over his concerns with the new koala State Environmental Panning Policy, Mr Gulaptis said he was not doing it to simply grandstand.

However, despite this morning's events he would not be making the move just yet.

"This is about ensuring we have a good policy in the bush that balances koala protection and doesn't impinge on people's property rights.

"The policy is now going to be reviewed and I am going to await the outcome before I decide whether I am satisfied with the review and satisfied the policy does achieve that balance."

He also challenged Planning Minister Rob Stokes over comments he made in a Sydney Morning Herald opinion piece which said many of the claims made by John Barilaro and others were "mistruths".

Mr Stokes said suggestions that farmers could not build feed sheds or driveways on their farm without a koala study were untrue and they could continue with routine agricultural practices without the need for development consent or a koala study.


NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi
NSW Minister for Planning and Public Spaces Rob Stokes. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Bianca De Marchi


"Barilaro also said noxious weeds are listed as core koala habitat," Mr Stokes said. "Again, this is incorrect. There are no noxious weeds on the tree species list."

However, a fired-up Mr Gulaptis took aim at the online maps which have been designed to help landowners and councils identify potential koala habitat and questioned why the timber industry and farmers were so "incensed".

"The Planning Minister can't say that it's wrong when the plans he brought out were so fundamentally flawed they lost all credibility." Mr Gulaptis said.

"The Minister might say it is very simple and doesn't apply to these specific rural industries but those rural industries are coming back to me and saying it does - and they are petrified.

"He needs to talk to those rural industries because it is pretty hard to convince them otherwise when you bring out a set of spatial plans that shows core koala habitat in the middle of Prince Street (Grafton)."

Meanwhile, the Chair of the recent Koala Inquiry, Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said it was reassuring to see the NSW Premier and her Planning and Environment Ministers taking the findings and recommendations from the inquiry seriously. 

That included not giving in to an ultimatum to weaken koala habitat protection laws by the Nationals.

The Koala Inquiry reported in June with the key finding, supported by all members of the Committee including government members, that koalas will be extinct by 2050 unless the government takes urgent action.  

"The Inquiry found that the ongoing loss and fragmentation of koala habitat poses the most serious threat to koala populations and that koalas in the wild in NSW cannot be guaranteed unless the government takes further action to protect their habitat," she said. 

"It's extremely reassuring to see that the Premier has listened to the sobering findings from the Inquiry and is beginning to act upon the recommendations which were supported by all sides of politics. 

"The updated Koala SEPP doesn't impact farmers that much. Farmers will still be able to clear koala habitat on their land under the Native Vegetation laws which have already been wound back to please the National Party."

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