New report charts a course to prevent koala extinction in NSW – and identifies the Great Koala National Park a vital step.
The National Parks Association of NSW Inc (NPA) is renewing calls for the creation of the Great Koala National Park—and other new protected areas for koalas—following the release of a new report charting a way forward to protect habitat for koalas in NSW and Queensland.
The Koala Habitat Conservation Plan builds on the NSW government’s approach of identifying occupied koala habitat (known as ‘hubs’) by updating the hubs data to identify priority areas for reservation. The report again highlights the importance of the Great Koala National Park for koala conservation, and supports other community reserve proposals between Port Stephens and the Queensland border.
The Great Koala National Park was developed in 2013 by NPA in conjunction with several local community groups. It seeks to protect all public land within the boundaries of two nationally significant populations of koalas. It would see 175,000 hectares of state forests turned into protected areas.
The Great Koala National Park steering committee has recently launched several recreation proposals for the new park, including a $6 million investment to formalise and upgrade mountain bike tracks in seven locations.
“As a community, we’re sitting on our hands while koalas spiral towards extinction,” said NPA Senior Ecologist, Dr Oisín Sweeney.
“Compared to the millions of koalas that existed in NSW just a century ago, we’re down to something like 20,000 animals. That is an extreme decline.
“This report gives us a way forward. It’s identifies the areas that we must protect immediately because we know they are vitally important for koalas. But more work is needed to recover koala populations, rather than just maintain the low levels we have now.
“That’s why the Great Koala National Park is so important: it would result in a highly connected landscape which would allow populations to recover. It will also function as an important climate refuge as extreme weather events in western areas become more common.
“We’re calling on whoever wins the upcoming election to do what’s needed to save koalas.
“The Great Koala National Park is a vital step that our leaders could take immediately. It’s 100% public land so already owned by the public. All we need is the political will.”
Media contact: Oisín Sweeney