If you are genuinely trying to save the koala why would you chose not to protect its known areas of habitat and recommend a significant number of habitat areas for either high-impact logging or clear-felling?
This is the question that not only environmental groups, but your average person, is trying to grapple with following the release of government documents that highlight that the Koala Reserves set up by the current National and Liberal state government cover only 0.2 per cent of the forest that experts have identified as core koala habitat or ‘Koala Hubs’.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI) show the NSW government ignored the advice of its own koala experts when selecting its so-called koala reserves says North Coast Environment Council (NCEC) Vice-President Susie Russell.
National Parks Association (NPA) of NSW who requested the FoI point out the that the ‘Freedom of information documents show we’re facing a koala colony wipe-out unless the government implements the Great Koala National Park and other key reserves.’
The North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) agree saying that the FoI documents ‘prove that the NSW government’s Koala Reserves are a sham’ however, they also see it as an opportunity to ‘provide a sound scientific basis to progress meaningful protection for koalas that should not have been ignored’.
Governments koala reserves protect few or no koalas
The released data confirms that most of the NSW government’s Koala Reserves have ‘no scientific basis and often no koalas,’ NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
‘It is disgraceful that the detailed koala habitat assessments undertaken for the Koala Strategy by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) were ignored.’
The National Parks Association point out that the ‘Analysis of the documents confirmed that the government reserves fail to protect koalas. Just 0.2 per cent of koala “hubs” (areas of known koala occupancy) identified by the NSW OEH are included in the government’s reserves. In contrast, a suite of reserve proposals made by NPA and other conservation groups showed strong overlap with hubs, with the Great Koala National Park alone containing 56 per cent of hubs in north-east NSW.’
Clear-felling koala habitat
The area between Taree and Grafton that has been identified by the National/Liberal government for large areas of clear felling contains 33 per cent of all koala hubs in NSW. This leaves just 14 per cent of koala hubs protected under their current proposal.
‘Most of the so-called reserves they created a few months ago were already off-limits to logging, so the koalas got no additional protection. And many of them didn’t even have a significant koala presence. They created 24,000ha of koala reserves that will do next to nothing to save the koala,’ said NCEC’s Ms Russell
‘Had they protected the 22,000ha of Koala Hubs that had been mapped by the OEH they would have given the current real living koalas a fighting chance.
‘The government is spending $45million on a strategy likely to fail and telling us they are saving the Koala… well they are not. What they are actually doing is a recipe for extinction. Government sanctioned logging and land-clearing destroys koala homes every day.’
Calls for protection
‘NSW’s wild koalas are facing a crisis and are on the path towards extinction. Yet rather than protect the areas of habitat identified by their own experts the state government wilfully ignores the science and selects random areas that are essentially bits of forest no longer needed by the logging industry,’ said Greens MP Dawn Walker.
‘The Liberal-National government’s Koala Plan is largely a con-job that doesn’t address the root causes underpinning the crash in koala numbers across NSW and these documents now prove it.’
The National Parks Association, NEFA, NCEC and The Greens are just some of the groups who are calling for the NSW government to take immediate action to protect the already diminishing koala populations across the state.
‘If the Premier has any genuine concerns for the plight of koalas she must urgently establish a moratorium from logging over the 20,000ha of clusters of resident koala populations, along with appropriate buffers, identified on state forests until further assessments are undertaken to identify boundaries of koala usage and determine meaningful climate-resilient koala reserves,’ said NEFAs Mr Pugh,
‘Now that it has been exposed the NSW government has no excuse to go on ignoring its own expert advice. NEFA calls upon the NSW government to immediately place all koala hubs on state forests, along with buffers of a minimum of 1km, under a moratorium from logging until further assessments are undertaken to identify boundaries of koala usage and determine meaningful and climate-resilient koala reserves.
‘Given the identified importance of riparian vegetation in maintaining koala populations during droughts the government should abandon its intention to reduce headwater stream buffers via the new logging laws,’ Mr Pugh said.