Koalas between the Tweed and Brunswick Rivers were officially listed as endangered by the NSW Scientific Committee this week, but fears of the animal’s imminent extinction in the area is a hot topic of debate.
According to koala campaigners, the population east of the Pacific Highway is at ‘a very high risk of extinction in the near future’, as defined by the Threatened Species Conservation Act.
Threatened Species Conservation Society president Dave Norris said the ‘endangered’ determination was inconsistent with claims that the koala population between Black Rocks and Koala Beach was stable.
‘Under council’s watch, the Tweed Coast koala population declined by 50 per cent in the decade previous to the 2010 study, with a further 50 per cent reduction in significant koala activity sites identified in the 2015 study,’ Mr Norris said.
‘This is clear evidence that to date council’s koala management actions have not worked.
But council’s general manager Troy Green has defended the shire’s proactive stand to protect koalas and enhance their habitat (see full letter at https://www.echo.net.au/?p=156794)
Mr Green said council and the Tweed Coast Koala Advisory Group had prepared the nomination for this listing and welcomed the final determination of the Scientific Committee.
‘This determination recognises the severity of the decline faced by the Tweed and Brunswick koala populations and highlights the need to continue to address threats such as wildfire, vehicle strikes and habitat loss,’ Mr Green said.
Longtime local koala activist Mr Norris said that ‘When our revered Australian icon the koala is threatened with extinction, it is time to employ the skills of a koala specialist. In the Tweed shire we are very lucky to have a resident highly credentialed koala expert and leading ecologist, Dr Steve Phillips.
Dr Phillips is a professional wildlife ecologist and former university lecturer with over 35 years of experience in all facets of natural area management from the investigation and planning of new conservation areas to the design of specialised survey programs for threatened plants and animals.
He is an internationally acknowledged authority on the ecology, conservation and management of koalas, and was contracted by the Tweed Shire Council to conduct the Tweed Coast Koala Habitat Study 2011.
This study has formed the basis for the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management 2015.
‘In December 2014 Dr Phillips wrote to council expressing his concern that the Tweed Coast KPoM was nowhere near as assertive as it needed to be if it were to effect koala recovery action.
‘He has also recommended revegetation of the Black Rocks sports field because it would create an ecologically important habitat block that will make a meaningful contribution to the recovery needs of the Tweed Coast koala population.
‘What hope do our koalas have when council ignores the advice of the koala specialist?’
Northern Rivers Guardians president, Scott Sledge said the council should be pro-active in making koala recovery decisions which would offset the impacts of 6,000 people moving into the proposed Dunloe Park urban development west of Pottsville and the link to the coast via Kellehers Road which will further dissect the koala corridor.
‘Because Dunloe Park is on privately owned land, it will be very difficult to stop that development going ahead. However, the Black Rocks sports field is publicly owned so here we have a chance to do something positive for the koalas. All we need is political will and the support of the community,’ Mr Sledge said.
The Tweed Coast KPoM requires that developers contribute 10 per cent of land in koala activity precincts to koala habitat. A proposal to relocate the Black Rocks sports field to Dunloe Park is currently being investigated by council staff.
‘Under this proposal the required habitat revegetation would occur at the Black Rocks sports field instead of Dunloe Park.
‘The sports field would then be relocated to an already cleared area in Dunloe Park. Minimal costs would be incurred as council would not need to purchase land elsewhere.
‘Dr Phillips wholeheartedly supports this proposal.
‘Dr Phllips holds grave fears that the Tweed Coast koalas will go down the same path as the Barrenjoey Peninsula koalas, which was the first koala population to be listed as endangered in New South Wales, but they are now near extinct.
‘Let’s learn the lessons of the past. The security and nurturing of the remaining koalas is vital. Unless council immediately implements a bold, recovery-oriented plan as recommended by Dr Phillips, localised koala extinction is inevitable,’ Mr Norris said.
As the human population goes up, the wildlife population (including koalas) goes down. The answer is simple: we need to stop growing. Endless growth on a finite planet is impossible. I would prefer to see developers become extinct rather than koalas.
The third paragraph of the above article contains an error. It should state: “Threatened Species Conservation Society president David Norris said the ‘endangered’ determination was inconsistent with claims that the koala population between Black Rocks and Koala Beach is ‘stable’.
The Tweed Coast Koala Habitat Study 2015 is inconsistent in that on page 2 it states: ‘Decline is most notable in the north of the study area, between Kings Forest and Koala Beach, while activity levels and the distribution of resident populations appear stable between Koala Beach and Black Rocks.’ However, on page 15 it states: ‘Activity levels have remained relatively stable in the Koala Beach, Pottsville and Black Rocks areas when compared to those recorded in 2010’.
The low levels of koala activity across the Tweed Coast recorded in 2010 triggered an application for the ENDANGERED listing. The 2011 koala habitat study estimated that there were 35 koalas in the Pottsville Wetlands – Black Rocks population cell. Since then over 200ha of koala habitat was severely damaged in the Christmas Day 2014 bush fire, with an estimated 30-50% koala mortalities in a fire of such intensity according to Dr Phillips. There have also been 6 known Black Rocks koala deaths in the last 2 years. Considering the low koala numbers in 2011, the ENDANGERED status, the fire and koala deaths, TSCS raises the question as to how the this population cell can be stable.
However, the ‘stability’ claims have been taken out of context in the media and on Facebook by others, apparently to suggest that claims of imminent extinction are exaggerated.
Thanks Dr Steve
And so would 109,000 people from over 73 countries who signed my petition to revegetate Black Rocks sports field, Quoll (see http://www.tinyurl.com/4koalas.html ). That figure does not include 1,747 signatures of hard copy petitions bringing the total to almost 111,000 signatures. Yet council pays no attention and doesn’t care. Why? Because they have a development agenda for the area and koalas are simply in the way.
Koala conservation by council is a bad joke until the day dogs are banned from koala habitat and car maximum speed is reduced to 20 km traversing koala habitat