The north coast koala population could be driven to extinction because of a lack of funding and government neglect, according to NSW Labor.
Shadow environment minister Penny Sharpe says the Baird government had cut funding for koala protection by 75 per cent and was only spending a ‘meagre $45,000 in 2015-16 financial year to protect koala populations despite their numbers plummeting by a third in just 20 years’.
Ms Sharpe said this was despite the NSW Scientific Committee recently upgrading the status of the north coast koalas from vulnerable to endangered as they ‘face a very high risk of extinction’.
She said that in the past three financial years, the government had spent $530,000 on protecting northern NSW koala populations.
‘The Baird government’s responses to opposition questions during Budget Estimates have shown the government is failing to provide the necessary financial support and environmental protections to safeguard the state’s koala populations,’ the MLC said.
‘The lack of government funding, logging and infrastructure projects on the north coast are placing even more pressure on the iconic Australian animal as land clearing reduces their former habitats by 75 per cent,’ she said.
‘Infrastructure projects have also put pressure on the northern NSW koala populations with the Broadwater-Ballina Pacific Highway upgrade set to bisect a significant koala population.
‘The government’s refusal to support a Great Koala National Park that would protect 315,000 hectares inland from Coffs Harbour near the Macleay River is also building the pressure.
‘If delivered, the park would protect 20 per cent of the north coast’s koala population which is estimated to now be as low as just 4,500.’
Ms Sharpe said the government should protect north coast koalas by: ‘investing more funding in koala recovery plans and support local communities in their efforts to stop their extinction; taking seriously the threat to koalas with the Ballina bypass and take action to stop the decimation of this population; and stopping logging in vital koala habitat and instead support the creation of a Great Koala National Park’.
‘It is do or die time for the koalas of the north coast,’ she said.
‘The decisions the NSW government makes in the next five years will determine whether our grandchildren will ever be able to see koalas in the wild on the north coast of NSW.
‘Continuing to sit on its hands with its eyes shut will see an iconic Australian animal forced to extinction on the state’s north coast.’
A spokesman fore environment minister Mark Speakman told media the government had committed $100 million in the past five years to protect all threatened species, including koalas.