The answer to widespread concerns about Mid North Coast koala populations might not involve converting more State Forest to National Park.
The Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, said the ‘crisis’ in koala populations was not supported by scientific facts.
“Recent work conducted as part of the Department of Primary Industry’s koala mapping project indicates previous estimates of koalas on the mid- and north- coast regions were underestimates, and there are strong resident populations in many areas of State Forest,” she said.
She described the current debate led by ‘the Labor-Green Alliance’ as an “unscientific scramble that would just repeat the mistakes of its past”.
Citing Bill Gammage’s ‘The Biggest Estate on Earth’, she said it was “fanciful to simply further expand the conservation estate in the absence of any data or scientific, peer-reviewed analysis about the actual performance of its role in threatened species and biodiversity conservation”.
“A few people might get all starry-eyed, but simply changing tenures doesn’t do much for koalas,” Mrs Pavey said.
“There are now 2.4 million hectares of National Parks, Conservation Areas and Nature Reserves in our region, and these areas are meant to be conserving our biodiversity.
“Whereas the timber industry now has access to just 400,000 hectares of State Forest in northern coastal NSW; only one to two per cent of this is used in any one year, and large areas of habitat are preserved in corridors throughout these forests.”
Mrs Pavey said landholders knew the National Park Estate was under-managed for threats such as wild dogs, wildfire and scrub invasion – all of which were causing koala habitat degradation.
“The question is: what will more park-land actually achieve?
“I think we need to know the National Park Estate is being actively managed and is making a lasting contribution to threatened species survival, before we even think about it having more land.”
In advocating for more staff in the National Park Estate, she proposes initiatives such as using appropriate inmates from the Mid North Coast Correctional Centre to help with maintenance and work programs.