Chris Dobney and Luis Feliu
The state government yesterday announced $88,000 in funding to Rous Water for a koala education and habitat restoration project in the Wilsons River catchment as part of a $700,000 commitment to koala conservation and recovery work through the Office of Environment and Heritage.
The announcement came on the same day that the federal environment minister Tony Burke declared the koala ‘vulnerable’ in NSW, Qld and the ACT.
But Tweed Greens councillor Katie Milne says not nearly enough is being done to address the dramatic koala population declines in the shire, particularly in the face of massive development
‘It’s a tragedy and a disgrace that governments and developers have brought koalas to the brink of extinction, risking our natural heritage and enormous tourism potential,’ she told Echonetdaily yesterday.
‘Developers have their way and ratepayers are left with the bills for expensive restoration attempts.’
Ms Milne said the new NSW coalition government had not ‘redressed any of the sins’ of the previous NSW Labor government in the Tweed.
‘They continue to allow development in key areas of the Kings Forest and Cobaki sites, areas that have been clearly identified as pivotal to survival of coastal koalas in the Tweed,’ she said.
And she has called on the federal government to go over the heads of the state on the Kings Forest development to ensure the survival of the koala in the shire.
‘I hope the federal listing is not too late for the Kings Forest development at least. The federal government is currently considering whether to call in Kings Forest for consideration of nationally threatened species but [it hasn’t been] looking at koalas as they have not been federally listed.’
President of Lismore-based Friends of the Koala, Lorraine Vass warned this morning that the listing was not ‘a silver bullet.’
“There are still activities that federal legislation cannot touch. An example is logging operations conducted under Regional Forest Agreements (RFAs). Such operations are prescribed by NSW state legislation and Integrated Forestry Operations Approvals (IFOAs),’ Mrs Vass said.
‘We are also intrigued that there has been little mention of the Recovery Plan the Minister has been advised should be developed to specifically focus on the northern koalas,’ she added.
‘An immediate opportunity for leadership is presented by the Noosa to Ballina corridor proposed in the Draft National Wildlife Corridor Plan. Identifying additional areas suitable for reservation and mechanisms for protecting them will be vital in improving our Northern Rivers koalas’ chances of survival.’
The state government has said it will put some of the funds announced yesterday towards convening a community koala summit, in conjunction with the NSW Conservation Council, ‘to clearly identify current koala conservation issues’.
‘Funding will also be used to track changes in koala populations, develop a standard approach to mapping koala habitat and to evaluate the effectiveness of previous tree plantings.
‘As well, the funding will be used to provide incentives to landholders to manage and approve priority koala habitat on their lands and to identify koala habitat and threats and recommend mitigation activity for councils and the community.’
Ms Parker said the koala was first recognised by the NSW government as vulnerable in 1992.
‘I’m pleased to say the federal government’s announcement to list the species as vulnerable under Commonwealth laws brings it in line with long-standing NSW legislation,’ Ms Parker said.