Letter: The great Koala CONservation

Not a week goes by that doesn’t expose the appalling environmental record of the NSW Coalition government. This week’s shameful debacle as reported in the SMH (28/09/18) once again exposes the sham that is the government’s Koala Conservation Strategy. Already assessed by conservation groups as a poorly conceived response to the koala crisis, many at least expected a fast roll out of programs and projects due to the urgency of the problem. However, with an Environment Minister reported as paralysed by indecision there continues to be a woefully slow implementation of even these ad hock and patently inadequate initiatives.

How is this as an example of their incompetence. Evidence obtained by the National Parks Association under freedom of information found that the much heralded “new reserves” recently announced as a major element of the government’s koala strategy were shown to be already protected and contain few or no koalas. You just can’t make this stuff up can you.

Just 0.2 per cent of koala ‘hubs’ (areas of known koala occupancy) identified by the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage are included in the these reserves. In contrast, a suite of reserve proposals made by NPA, Bellingen Environment Centre, and supported by the Greens and NSW Labor prove that a Great Koala National Park alone would contain 56 per cent of hubs in north-east NSW. 

The final nail in the koala coffin could come from this governments plan to approve an intensive harvesting zone between Taree and Grafton, that will see large areas of forests clearfelled, contains 33 per cent (>5,000ha) of all hubs in state forests; The Bellingen Shire will be hit hard and fast if these plans go ahead. This will be a disaster for koala and other forest dependant wildlife and a huge headache for our tourism industry.

No doubt Melinda Pavey and our beleaguered Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton will counter this report by claiming that their plan is backed by “unprecedented level of funding” or that “koala do well in logged forests”. I would argue that funding that doesn’t solve the problem is a criminal waste and without stating the obvious, that koala prefer large trees found in intact native forests. So, no minister, industrial clearing of our native forests isn’t compatible with koala conservation.

The government must start taking koala conservation seriously, if we are to avoid local extinction of koala colonies on the Mid North Coast. You can’t protect koalas without preserving the habitat they live in. The Great Koala National Park is the best strategy we have to protect koala habitat in this region. The evidence once again proves it. 

Kevin Evans