On 16th February federal Environment Minister Tony Burke announced that he was delaying his decision on whether to add the koala to the list of nationally threatened species. The Minister was originally scheduled to make his decision public on 17th February. His decision will now be made by 30th April 2012.
The reason Minister Burke gave for deferring his decision was the need for more information from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
His Media Release stated:
"There is a strong case that a nationally threatened species listing is required for koalas in areas where numbers have been under greatest threat.
"But I can't provide a blanket threatened species listing across Australia when there are many places where koala numbers remain high.
"That means any listing would need to apply only to specific parts of Australia.
"The advice I've received from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee suggests that I could generalise these areas to state boundaries.
"I agree with the Committee's findings about the need to treat populations differently in different parts of Australia but am seeking further advice on whether there are more precise habitat boundaries than simply adopting state boundaries."
It's a pity the Minister did not identify the need for more information earlier. Perhaps he is reluctant to make a decision which, while it might assist in saving many koalas from the impacts of habitat loss, disease and other causes of mortality, will irritate those who are anxious to promote development in areas of prime koala habitat.
Those anxious to see our national icon given greater protection can be sure of one thing. Minister Burke will be under considerable pressure from developer interests and the state governments who are concerned that development should not be impeded in any way.
Obviously those who want to see the koala protected should continue to put their views to the Minister and to their local federal members.
There have already been three unsuccessful attempts to list the koalas as a threatened species under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act). Will it be a case of fourth time lucky ?