Friday 13 January 2012

Legislation Failing Koalas

 Koala numbers are declining across Australia. This has led to a Vulnerable listing at some State levels, but a Federal Government listing remains in limbo as the Environment Minister procrastinates under pressure from developers.

Locally Clarence Valley Council's Draft Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for Ashby, Woombah and Iluka (CKPoM) recognises that the Woombah koala population is in imminent danger of extinction, and the Iluka population is likely to be extinct. Yet more development is planned for Ashby, despite the warnings and the fact that a viable koala population exists in that area.

At Shannon Creek, in the Coutts Crossing area,  the access road to the Clarence Coffs Harbour Regional Water Scheme dam destroyed core habitat and a critical movement corridor - despite a Koala Plan of Management. Investigations in recent years have failed to find any trace of the previously known, healthy koala population. 

And yet another subdivision is under consideration that will cut through yet another vital koala movement corridor in the significant Waterview Heights locality.

Last year Clarence Valley Council approved another development east of Coutts Crossing, with planned removal of over 10 hectares (ha) of forest from a mapped regional wildlife corridor in an area where koalas were known. 

The Pacific Highway upgrade is set to destroy over 500 ha of koala habitat through the Valley, plus hundreds more north of Iluka and south of Wells Crossing, yet the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) does not need to consider cumulative impacts on koalas, although the highway has already imposed major impacts around Coffs Harbour, one of NSW's remaining strongholds for this iconic animal.

Also at Coffs Harbour private native forestry recently saw over 800 ha of core koala habitat approved for logging, ignoring Coff's Council's KPoM, while Forests NSW heavily logged koala habitat in the Boambee and Clouds Creek State Forests, with up to 80% of vegetation removed in some areas. Now plans have been released to log Ellis and Orara State Forests, both in high use koala habitat.

Stress from habitat and territory loss is a known trigger for koala diseases and subsequent deaths, while habitat fragmentation has contributed to their demise by forcing them to spend time on the ground, vulnerable to dog attack and vehicle strike.

Yet the destruction continues unabated.
- John Edwards