Koala recovery targets 'unachievable without stronger protections', wildlife rescue groups implore NSW Premier

17 wildlife rescue groups across NSW are calling for the protection of koala habitat from intensified logging under weakened forestry regulations. Photo: Wildlife Rescue
17 wildlife rescue groups across NSW are calling for the protection of koala habitat from intensified logging under weakened forestry regulations. Photo: Wildlife Rescue

Wildlife rescue groups across NSW have written to Premier Dominic Perrottet imploring him to add strong habitat protections to the NSW Koala Strategy and land-clearing codes.

Koalas in NSW are in a precarious position after thousands were killed and huge areas of their habitat destroyed by the Black Summer bushfires.

The 17 groups have commended the Premier for his investment in koala rehabilitation but warned his government would fail to double koala numbers as promised if logging and clearing of koala habitat continued.

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The groups decided to write to the Premier now because a decision on the Koala Strategy and land-clearing codes is believed to be imminent.

The letter states:

Koalas are a unique and irreplaceable part of our national natural heritage. We all have a duty to conserve them for future generations. It would be a shameful legacy to lose this species when it is clearly within our power to avert such a tragedy.

If [the NSW Koala Strategy] does not adequately address habitat loss as a key threat, the NSW Government cannot achieve its stated goal of doubling wild koala numbers by 2050.

The groups state that in order to arrest and reverse the decline in koala numbers, the NSW Koala Strategy must:

  • Strengthen koala protections in key laws and codes, including the Biodiversity Conservation Act, the Local Land Services Act, the Private Native Forestry codes and the 2021 Koala Habitat Protection SEPP;
  • Declare the 175,000ha Great Koala National Park and the 7,000ha Sandy Creek Koala Park on North Coast and new koala national parks for southwestern and western Sydney; and
  • Protect koala habitat from intensified logging under weakened forestry regulations (the Coastal Integrated Forestry Operations Approval).

Kerstin Schweth is a carer with Wildlife Rescue South Coast and said things were looking grim for the species, with extra pressure placed on animals following drought and floods.

"We lost a lot in the bushfires and on top of everything there is the loss of habitat," Ms Schweth said.

"Stress factors mean koalas immune systems are compromised and they are more susceptible to disease.

"Protecting habitat is not only beneficial for koalas but for humans as well, the politicians don't seem to care, but we need to plan more cautiously."

Koala protections were significantly weakened as a result of internal divisions since last year within the Coalition government.

The Australian Koala Foundation said 30 per cent of the iconic species have been lost in just three years.

Ms Schweth said if more thought was put into it, corridors could be preserved for the animals so they are less landlocked.

"We need to have an area we can safely let the animals go, we have to protect their habitat," she said.

"If we don't do anything now we won't have anything left in 2050. Once it is gone it is gone for good."

Environment Minister Matt Kean said last month a $193million program to protect the NSW koala population would be announced "very soon", as he faced questions over a lack of progress on the previous plan.

Mr Kean agreed not enough was being done to protect koalas under threat and said the government "will be announcing a comprehensive plan developed with some of the best scientists in the country".

Work on a new code for private native forestry is underway and Mr Kean said he will not agree to the removal of protections for core koala habitat, saying any attempt at removing the protections would be "a line in the sand" for him.

This story Koala recovery targets 'unachievable without stronger protections': wildlife rescue groups first appeared on Bega District News.