I have no doubt that the NSW Government, despite occasional bouts of insincere 'hand wringing', and non-specific funding announcements, doesn't give a damn about koalas. The failure over many decades to even acknowledge climate change, much less take action to mitigate the impacts, has now led to the incineration of hundreds if not thousands of these iconic marsupials.
The current government also abolished the Native Vegetation Act, opening the flood gates to land clearing on private property. It also changed the Integrated Forests Operations approval, removing some previous koala protections, and allowing the clear-felling of large areas of state forests, some of it core koala habitat.
Recently we learned that Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (CKPOM), that councils are required to formulate, are “frozen for years in a sea of red tape”. Plans designed to protect koalas and their habitat across NSW are taking years to be approved by the State Government.
Claims these delays are the result of developers’ lobbying may well be true but, given local experience, one wonders just how effective those CKPOMs are. Just two months ago, developers were granted approval to bulldoze 14 hectares of forest at Iluka, containing core koala habitat and providing a vital fauna movement corridor.
In that case a CKPOM was already approved, and states: “The primary aims of this Plan are to ensure that the current extent of koala habitat is maintained and improved, and not reduced; and to mitigate processes which are limiting koala occupancy rates and/or population sizes”.
We are also assured in the Plan objectives that Council would: “minimise the potential for adverse impacts and disturbances to current and future areas of koala habitat; protect koala habitat in order to, as a minimum, maintain koala populations across their current range”, and “create, manage and/or restore koala habitat linkages and corridors.
All of these were ignored by Clarence Valley Council's Planners, the majority of Councillors, the Federal Minister for the Environment, and finally the Joint Regional Planning Panel, all of whom gave the development their tick of approval.
This is government-approved extinction in action.
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on December 30, 2019.