$20 million to buy koala habitat is welcome but doomed to fail in light of policy settings driving deforestation

Today’s announcement that $20 million will be allocated from the Environment Trust to purchase koala habitat from landholders is welcome, but an inefficient use of money and likely to fail because of accelerating deforestation says the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA).

NPA’s Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney welcomed the promised investment but said the government must do much more if it was to be successful in avoiding koala extinctions:

“In the last few years the NSW government has overseen an acceleration of tree clearing[1], is sitting on its hands and allowing urban development to destroy koala habitat and is poised to implement logging laws that will dramatically intensify logging in koala habitat on public land.

“In light of these terrible policy settings, this investment is doomed to fail because it simply won’t protect enough habitat.

“On current prices, $20 million invested in land purchase in the Coffs Harbour area would buy you under 1,500 hectares[2].

“That’s clearly not enough to save koalas. In order to make this investment work, it must be complemented by efforts to protect koala habitat on public land and proper regulation of tree clearing and urban development.

“By the Minister’s own admission, the koala reserves the Government has made so far have been selected on the basis that they don’t impact on timber supplies, rather than their importance for koalas. Many of them have no koala records and no koala habitat[3].

“In contrast, NPA has proposed several koala reserves[4] that would protect habitat on public land and which we know will make a positive difference because the Government itself has identified[5] them as important areas.

“The Great Koala National Park[6] alone would protect 175,000 hectares of public forests near Coffs Harbour and has been shown to be of paramount important for koalas5. That’s 100 times more habitat for $20 million less, because we already own these forests.

“Instead, the government’s proposing an ‘intensive harvesting zone’ for the mid-north coast where 45-hectare patches of forest will be able to be clearfelled in a single operation[7].

“We call on the government to reinstate tree clearing protections, to toughen its planning policy (called State Environment Planning Policy 44 – Koala Habitat Protection) that it has been reviewing since 2016 and to create the Great Koala National Park if it’s serious about saving koalas.”

Ends

Media contact: Oisín Sweeney, 9299 0000

[1]https://www.nature.org.au/media/324148/2018_bulldozing_of_bushland_nearly_triples_wwf_ncc_final_singles.pdf

[2]https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-05-02/farmland-values-report-shows-median-price-rise/9713822

[3]https://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/nsw-chooses-timber-over-koalas-critics-of-habitat-plan-claim-20180601-p4zj0s.html

[4]https://npansw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/50-Park-Proposals-NPA-31_1_2018.pdf

[5]https://npansw.org/koalagipaanalysis_sep18-2/

[6]https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3sKmVn4kYOBbFhzS1J3NnhyNVE/view

[7]https://theconversation.com/proposed-nsw-logging-laws-value-timber-over-environmental-protection-97863

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