The National Parks Association of NSW Inc (NPA) commends Government recognition of the threats to koala habitat and the key role of national parks in species conservation, but fears the new koala strategy will prove inadequate and a waste of money under current policy settings.
The proposed reserves appear small and piecemeal and resemble more a series of interventions that will—at best—slow koala declines to placate a concerned public than a genuine attempt to recover koalas state-wide.
Without seeing the detail of the state forest protections, it is not yet possible to say whether these are new protections or areas that were always off limits to logging—so called ‘informal’ reserves.
The strategy is seriously undermined by pending changes to logging laws anticipated to legalise virtual clearfell logging in koala habitat, and relaxed land clearing laws passed in 2016 that exposed 99% of koala habitat on private land to clearing1. Woodchipping in southern NSW is completely ignored, with no koala habitat identified for protection.
NPA Senior Ecologist, Oisín Sweeney said: “The government removed the brakes on deforestation on private land in 2016, and now plans to spend $20 million to buy habitat at risk due to that decision. That’s a questionable use of public money.
“The small scale and scattered nature of the koala ‘reserves and parks’ are an inadequate response to sharp declines in koalas state-wide. What was needed was a bold strategy, addressing threats from land clearing, logging and urban development and we’ve not got that.
“The best chance to recover koalas are large, well connected reserves that protect habitat and provide east-west links to deal with climate change. Small isolated patches are highly vulnerable to catastrophic events like fire and ignore the threat of climate change.
“We have proposed the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) and several other reserves to protect some of the best habitat in NSW and provide the vital links to help koalas cope with climate change.
“The GKNP alone would add 175,000ha of koala habitat to the reserve network, compared to the Government’s 4,000 with no land acquisition costs because it’s public land.
“Compared to bold interventions like the GKNP, the Strategy is small target and less likely to succeed.”
Media contact: Oisín Sweeney 0431 251 194