On May 15th a group of 30 met at the Bellingen showground to share ideas and work out strategies to further help our iconic koala. Goals and resolutions coming out of this day were then presented at the Nature Conservation Council's (NCC) annual conference, held at the same venue that weekend.
Facilitator for the day was National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) and NCC Executive John Turnbull.llA line-up of our State's most knowledgeable koala champions spoke on their different fields of interest and expertise - Dailan Pugh and Susie Russell (North East Forests Alliance - NEFA) on forestry and the state of our northern forests; Keith Kendall on koala mapping methodology; Ashley Love on the Koala National Park campaign, Susie and Ashley jointly on the troublesome SEPP44; Lorraine Vass (Friends of Koala) on the expected negative impacts on koalas by the new Pacific Motorway; Jim Morrison of the NCEC (North Coast Environment Council) and NCC on Private Native Forestry, and SERCA's (South East Region Conservation Alliance) Mike Thompson on southern koala populations and the role of translocation
The conservation of koalas, to ensure thriving, free-living populations across their natural range so they no longer need to be listed as a threatened species, was the main goal agreed on by the meeting, and to achieve this end some realistic regional and state campaigns were developed. These included the already in-principle supported koala national park, ending logging of native forests, and encouraging local councils to develop and enforce koala plans of management, even on private lands.
It was agreed that the most important enabler to this end is people themselves- globally by the high profile and attraction of koalas, and locally by community 'ownership' and desire to protect their own population of koalas, all of which collectively can bring pressure to bear on governments at all levels to do something more to help them.
However, to trigger the full support of this potential massive human power, there first needs to be a profound increase in public awareness of koalas and their current plight. And the main barrier against this is today's general disconnect of people from their natural world.
Anyone aware of koalas in their local area can now join in a growing push for public engagement, by alerting their neighbours to the fact that koalas are in fact in trouble and in need of help, by attending relevant meetings, joining local groups, learning more about koalas' habitat and needs, and maybe helping with any information distribution and lobbying of decision-makers, in full recognition that all environmental issues are, in the end, political decisions.
- Patricia Edwards