The new NSW Opposition Leader, Luke Foley, has committed to creating such a national park if his party wins government in the state election on March 28. The proposed 315,000 hectare national park would protect the Bellingen-Nambucca-Macleay and Coffs Harbour-Guy Fawkes koala meta-populations - an estimated 4500 koalas - 20% of NSW's remaining koalas.
This proposal would see 176,000 hectares of State Forest added to the existing 140,000 hectares of National Parks in the area.
|Location Map (The Sydney Morning Herald, 19 Jan '15)
"My view is that we've just got to act. If we're going to be fair dinkum about saving the koala in the wild, we have to protect the koala's habitat," he said.
As some of the state forest which would form part of this new reserve is currently being logged, Mr Foley stated that Labor would negotiate with the forestry industry and indicated that buying back timber allocations and compensation for logging companies would be on the table.
Environment groups have long been concerned about the decline in koala numbers and the lack of effective action to secure their survival as a species. Before the 2011 state election the current government promised to improve koala protection but has failed to honour this promise.
In welcoming Mr Foley's announcement, Susie Russell, spokesperson for the North Coast Environment Council (NCEC), said, "Koala populations are crashing across their known range. The previously largest known population in NSW in the Pilliga forest has all but disappeared. The koala populations of the north coast are among the largest remaining. Koalas are recognised by both Federal and State laws as being vulnerable to extinction."
"A major reason for this is the on-going destruction of their habitat. There is competition for trees bigger than you can wrap your arms around (30-80 cm diameter). The koalas need them and the loggers want them too."