A committee of the Legislative Council, State Parliament’s upper house, is conducting an inquiry into koala populations and habitat in the state.
Matters it is investigating include the status of koala populations, the adequacy of current measures to protect the species and the impact of government legislation and policies on koalas and their habitat.
This inquiry is being welcomed by those concerned about declining koala numbers and the loss of koala habitat. It is hoped that it will lead to effective action by the NSW Government to stop the current slide of koalas in this state towards extinction.
The major threat to koalas is loss of habitat as a result of agricultural and forestry activities as well as urban expansion into koala habitat (including rural residential expansion). Other threats, many of them development related, are road kill, dog attack and stress related disease. Other threats include drought and climate change.
Current government policies are resulting in loss of habitat and habitat fragmentation. The NSW Government’s easing of rules on native vegetation has led to an acceleration in land clearing which is affecting koalas as well as other vulnerable native species.
Changes to logging rules in NSW State Forests are also having a serious impact on koalas and their habitat. A North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) study identified that the Forestry Corporation has logged 2,500 ha of “highest priority” koala habitat over the last four years.
On the North Coast koala populations have collapsed by 50% in the last 20 years.
The NSW Government responded to scientific and community concern about koalas by introducing its Koala Strategy.
A joint report by the World Wildlife Federation Australia (WWF), the NSW National Parks Association and NEFA is very critical of this, pointing out that the $45 million plan will not prevent the extinction of koalas in NSW. Its primary failing is that “it ignores changes in legislation in 2017 that made it legal to clear 99% of the state’s koala habitat.”
Hopefully this parliamentary inquiry will force the Government to finally take effective action.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on August 12, 2019