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March 6, 2021

Koala extinction

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Dailan Pugh, Byron Bay

In response to Victor Eddy (letters 17 October): despite our best endeavours we were not able to obtain the comprehensive, adequate and representative reserve system from 1996 to 2003 for northeast NSW that the science said we needed. 

Many of the national targets for forest ecosystems and viable populations of priority fauna were not achieved as they were over-ridden by timber commitments.

We managed to get reservation targets for minimum populations of priority fauna, but only 29 per cent of priority fauna populations fully achieved reservation targets in northeast NSW. Across all populations mean target achievement was 49 per cent. 

See The good, the bad and the ugly: science, process and politics in forestry reform and the implications for conservation of forest fauna in northeast New South Wales for a review.

The coastal eucalypt forests, which are the preferred habitat for koalas, were particularly poorly protected.

Regarding Forestry’s attempts to convert Whian Whian’s diverse forests into Blackbutt plantations I would like to point out that koalas don’t eat Blackbutt. 

Of greater concern was that for years they had someone going around just targeting Tallowwood (koalas’ preferred feed tree) for logging. 

There may have been a healthy koala population there in 1966 but by the time it was protected their population had been decimated. 

Most recently the Office of Environment and Heritage has identified ‘Koala Hubs’ that are ‘areas of currently known significant koala occupancy that indicate clusters of resident populations’, of which only 16 per cent occur in National Parks. 

The 19 per cent that occur in state forests are the areas that should be immediately protected, including those in Royal Camp and Carwong State Forests near Casino. See more on koalas on NEFAs website.

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  1. Do foresters and developers inhabit the same parallel universe as our current environment minister and premier and where koalas flourish despite to their management practices and ample evidence to the contrary?

    I see that our environment minister has set aside $20 million & identified priority areas of koala habitat on private property targeted for buybacks for addition to National Parks “to ensure their protection”. (see: https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/threatened-species/programs-legislation-and-framework/nsw-koala-strategy/purchasing-land-with-priority-koala-habitat ).

    Despite all the work undertaken by NEFA over recent decades as alluded to by Mr Pugh, none of those areas are near the Casino populations rate a mention. Surely a simple change of tenure and cessation of industrial logging in those areas would offer cheap and immediate protection, or maybe they value subsidised timber production in National Party seats more than koalas? Similarly, no koala hotspot areas near small nature reserves in the Lismore Council area have been identified as a priority. The targeted areas are all adjacent to existing large national parks further east and north.

    Nor does it appear any areas that benefit the Endangered Koala Population of the Far North Coast east of the motorway between the Tweed & Brunswick Rivers have been identified despite several small nature reserves that could be enlarged. The proposal certainly appears to ignore koala populations known to be under immediate and perilous threat.

    It seems to me that an obvious buyback choice that would receive overwhelming community support would be a buyback at West Byron, currently under secretive consideration by the JRPC for the over-development monstrosity – it adjoins an existing Nature Reserve, contains koalas and has great potential for habitat restoration. Win-win?


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