Koala populations at Gunnedah under threat from coal project

The Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has lodged a submission with the Planning Assessment Commission currently reviewing the Watermark Coal Project for the New South Wales Government.

The AKF are warning the commission of their concerns over the project, which they claim will impact koala populations in the Gunnedah region.

AKF chief executive officer Deborah Tabart OAM said Gunnedah was home to one of the last significant remaining koala populations in NSW.

"The AKF has had an active interest in the Koalas in the Gunnedah region for more than 15 years," said Ms Tabart OAM.

"Gunnedah is home to one of the few remaining Koala populations of significance left in New South Wales.

"If this project goes ahead, the koalas on this site and surrounds are doomed."

It is a population of regional, State and Federal significance, and this proposal will obliterate 847 ha of Koala Habitat. (This) is but a fraction of the koala habitat likely to be impacted by the indirect impacts of this proposal, such as a reduction in corridors for animals to move around the landscape and increased mortality from trucks and trains associated with the development.

Ms Tabart said the AKF held concerns over the a range of issues, including the quality of science, population estimates and the value of the proposed offsets.

"The truly shocking aspect of this project is the proposal to translocate up to 300 animals off the development site," Ms Tabart said.

"There is a wealth of evidence to suggest translocations lead to significant koala mortality (and) there are many, many examples of translocations gone wrong.

"In Victoria, translocations with 80%-100% mortality of moved animals - this entire program was subsequently disbanded. In Queensland one study showed up to 30% mortality.

"These are appalling figures, and the true figures could be higher still given the level of secrecy which surrounds many of these programs."

Ms Tabart said the proposal was an "unprecedented exercise", of which the groundwork had yet to be completed.

"To suggest that you can move nearly 300 animals with ease is pure nonsense," Ms Tabart said.

"This is an unprecedented exercise, and to be frank, the groundwork has not yet been done to suggest this will be anything short of a catastrophe.

"The koala is listed as a threatened species at both the State and Federal levels, and a development of this magnitude will have a dramatic, detrimental impact on what is, at present, one of the few remaining significant koala populations in NSW.

"These animals are already at great risk, in particular from drought."

View the full submission here.

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