North Coast koala populations have declined by 50 per cent in just 20 years but NSW Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton has signed off on land clearing laws which endanger remaining populations, according to the National Parks Association of NSW.
NPA chief executive Alix Goodwin said the land clearing laws signed off by the minister have put almost all koala habitat on private land at risk.
Ms Goodwin said freedom of information documents showed that Ms Upton knew that less than 1 per cent of koala habitat on private land was protected from clearing under the suite of self-assessable codes, but signed off on them anyway.
‘Koalas need habitat to exist. Full stop. If we risk losing most of the habitat on private land, we must protect remaining koala habitat on public land,’ she said.
‘We have proposed a suite of koala reserve proposals—100% on public land—between Port Stephens and Tweed so that koalas have a fighting chance on the NSW North Coast.
‘The most important of these is the Great Koala National Park (GKNP). This has been identified by Ms Upton’s own Department as containing koala habitats of national significance.
‘Yet logging is occurring right now in Gladstone State Forest, part of the GKNP, and the Minister has done nothing to stop it—despite repeated pleas and in full knowledge that koala populations on the north coast have declined 50 per cent in just 20 years.
‘It has been left to locals to blockade the forest to stand up for koala.
‘We know from polling we did before Christmas that there is overwhelming support for new national parks to protect koalas. Public land must be managed in the public interest, and there is no more important animal for the people of NSW than koalas.
‘We again call on Minister Upton to do what the public wants her to do and create the Great Koala National Park.’
Meanwhile, Northern Rivers residents have been reminded that an online survey is being undertaken to gather information about koala populations.
Residents can now record their sightings and thoughts about koalas in the online survey run by The University of Queensland, Southern Cross University and the University of Sydney.
UQ School of Communication and Arts researcher Associate Professor Kelly Fielding
said the study aimed to understand people’s thoughts and experiences of koalas in the region, and gather their opinions on best management of the region for conservation.
The survey, which will take about 20 minutes to complete, can be found at www.northcoastkoala.net.
People completing the survey will go in the prize draw for their choice of a two-day break at The Byron at Byron five-star resort or a 2017 iPad Pro.