The Nature Conservation Council of NSW (NCC) is concerned that the NSW Government’s recently released proposed Biodiversity Conservation legislation will lead to further loss of koalas in western NSW.
The increase in land clearing resulting from this weakening of native vegetation protection laws, plus the impact of climate change, are seen as likely to lead to koala extinction in the west of the state.
NCC CEO Kate Smolski said, “Land clearing is one of the biggest threats to our koalas in NSW, particularly in the state’s western regions where its habitat has become severely fragmented by more than 200 years of tree-clearing.”
She has called on Premier Baird to go back to the drawing board on the legislation if he wants to ensure the koala’s long-term survival.
Concerns about the survival of the koala in NSW and Queensland led to its listing as vulnerable under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act in 2012.
There is good reason for this concern. On the east coast koala numbers declined more than 40% between 1990 and 2010. In the west, in the Pilliga Forest for example, an area that was formerly a stronghold for the species, a 2013 survey found that the population had crashed by 75% in 10 years. So that population is now considered highly endangered.
Key threats to koala survival are habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, predation from dogs, vehicle strike, disease, drought, climate change and inbreeding.
Koalas are not the only species under threat from these new laws. Many other fauna and flora species will suffer if there is a return to broadscale land clearing.
The NCC is calling for improvements in the proposed legislation to safeguard the future of the natural environment.
One of these improvements is ruling out clearing bushland that is critical habitat for threatened wildlife.
Another is development of a scheme to pay “cash for compensation” to support farmers who protect wildlife, healthy soils and pure water supplies.
And another is comprehensive mapping of the state’s 1500 vegetation communities.
Submissions can be made on the proposed legislation until 28 June.
- Leonie Blain
This post originally appeared in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on 23rd May, 2016.