The Ballina upgrade of the Pacific Highway through core koala habitat has been listed as one of many reasons the iconic species appears doomed if the NSW Government fails to deliver its long-awaited Koala Strategy.
The NSW opposition has called on the government to release the strategy, saying the state had been without a strategy for five years.
Scientists have warned that on current trends the iconic koala is on track for extinction in NSW by 2055. The previous plan, the NSW Koala Recovery Plan that was developed under the previous Labor government, lapsed in 2013, and last week marked one year since consultation closed for a proposed replacement strategy.
The Government’s own 2016 report from the NSW Chief Scientist found that the state’s koala population has dropped by a quarter over the last 20 years, down from a population of millions at the time of European settlement. The state is now home to fewer than ten percent of the nation’s koalas, with just 36,000 remaining in the wild.
Similarly, last year WWF-Australia reported that koala numbers in the Pilliga have dropped by a staggering 80 per cent since the 1990s; in the south-east, there are thought to be fewer than 60 koalas left; while west of the Great Dividing Range, 90 per cent of known populations are in decline.
Since 2011 the NSW Government has done more to harm koalas than save them, including:
* Introducing land clearing laws that could see eight million hectares of core koala habitat destroyed;
* Signing off on clearing codes that will only protect one per cent of koala habitat from land clearing;
* Selling off core koala habitat to developers for $250,000 at the Mambo Wetlands in Port Stephens;
* Directing the route of the Pacific Highway Upgrade at Ballina through core koala habitat;
* Refusing to support the Great Koala National Park, instead calling it “a political gimmick”;
* Allowing housing development in core koala habitat in the Macarthur region and including the upgrade of Picton Road without protections for the only chlamydia-free koala population in NSW;
* Carting off koalas in sacks from the Liverpool Plains to make way for the Shenhua coal mine; and
* Allowing logging operations that do not properly take into account koalas in state forests, with further weakening of the protections currently in place.
Labor’s Environment Shadow Minister Penny Sharpe said NSW needs a Koala Recovery Plan ‘and it needs one now’.
‘The Government hasn’t had a koala plan for five years, yet as the evidence mounts of koalas heading towards extinction, the Government sits on its hands and drives our koalas further towards extinction,’ Ms Sharpe said.
‘When future generations ask who killed off the koalas of New South Wales, the answer will be the Liberals and Nationals of the 2010s.’