VOICES FOR THE EARTH: NSW Government’s Koala Policy
Last week the long awaited report by the State Government's Upper House Portfolio Committee No. 7 (Planning and Environment), on Koala populations and habitat in NSW, was released.
The bottom line is that, unless trends are reversed, Koalas will become extinct in NSW within 30 years. There are few positives other than the recommendations, one of which was support for the proposed Great Koala National Park on the north coast.
The Government's immediate response was to point to their $44.7 million NSW Koala Strategy, with its 14 strategy highlights. Threats to Koalas are well known. In order of seriousness they are habitat loss, disease, road kills, and dog attack.
Of the 14 actions, only one deals with habitat loss, and that is to, "create over 24,000 hectares of new koala reserves and parks".
While at first glance that might seem positive, none of those proposed 24,000 hectares creates a single hectare of additional habitat. Moreover, reports suggest that many of those reserves appear to have been chosen because they had minimal timber value, rather than their Koala habitat values.
To put that into perspective, the Environment Department has identified over 100,000 hectares of core koala habitat across NSW; but only 16 per cent is protected in the Parks' estate. The proposed Great Koala National Park, which only covers a relatively small area west of Coffs Harbour, would see a 315,000ha reserve, 175,000ha of which is publicly owned state forests, a large percentage of which is still continuously logged.
The opening statement of the Koala Strategy boasts that it: "supports on-ground initiatives delivered by wildlife rehabilitators, community groups, local councils and government agencies who are already working to protect koalas in the wild".
We can't speak for other regions, but here in the Clarence Valley a lot of koala feed tree planting is occurring, but the amount of land being rehabilitated is dwarfed into insignificance by the broad scale land clearing and logging that is occurring all around us, and all being approved by the very government agencies charged with protecting Koalas.