The long awaited report of the Parliamentary Committee inquiry into Koalas and Koala Habitat in NSW, released yesterday has warned that koalas will become extinct in NSW by 2050 without government intervention.
The report follows a year of investigations by the cross party parliamentary committee and has prompted a swift response from conservationists.
Nambucca Valley Conservation Association (NVCA) president Paula Flack said it was heartening that the Committee not only listened to strong public concerns about the plight of koalas in the wild in NSW and the threats to their survival from human activities, but actually gave the koala and its habitat genuine and informed consideration in preparing its 42 recommendations.
"Action is desperately needed to save the iconic koala from predicted extinction in NSW.
"Whilst the recommendations were not as strong as we would have liked, they make absolute sense and are a welcome step in the right direction. It's now up to the NSW Government to do the right thing and adopt them all immediately."
A key finding in the report is that logging in public native forests in New South Wales has had cumulative impacts on koalas over many years because it has reduced the maturity, size and availability of preferred feed and roost trees.
"This must be reversed through identified koala habitat in public native forests being made off limits to logging."
The NVCA is especially pleased to see in the Committee Chair, Cate Faehrmann's foreword, reference to Recommendation 41, which states:
'That the NSW Government investigate the establishment of the Great Koala National Park, and her encouragement that the government do this without delay.'
Ms Flack said for years the community has asked the state government to move the last of the NSW timber industry into plantations and protect the remaining public native forest in new parks like the Great Koala National Park.
"Doing this will create many jobs and economic benefits for local economies as forests recover from unsustainable industrial scale logging. Nature based tourism is in high demand and our region has tourist attracting features in spades."
President of the National Parks Association (Coffs Coast branch), Kevin Evans, said with the current huge loss of employment in the region, it was the perfect time to create long-term employment relating to tourism.
"There are also potential jobs related to restoring the health of previously logged forests," Mr Evans said.
"Conservationists would like to see recreational tourism, including mountain biking and long walks, flourish here and support the local economy - the Great Koala National Park would do that."
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean has thanked the committee for their work and says he looks forward to reviewing the report, and seeing "what further can be done to protect this Australian icon".
"Last season's bushfires had a devastating impact on our koala population," Minister Kean said.
"Koalas are an iconic Australian animal recognised the world over, and a national treasure which we will do everything we can to protect for future generations.
"That's why the NSW Government has committed to our $44 million koala strategy, the largest financial commitment to protecting koalas in the state's history."