The destruction of koala habitat – and therefore habitat for many other species – nearly doubled since the axing of the state’s Native Vegetation Act in August 2017 by the NSW Liberal/National government. 3,000ha of koala habitat was destroyed in the Central West, Hunter and North West regions in the 12 months following the repeal of strong deforestation controls.
‘Eastern Australia is one of the world’s top 11 deforestation hotspots,’ said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski.
‘Deforestation is the number-one cause of extinctions in NSW and is the underlying threat to our koalas on the north coast.’
This weekend the North Coast #SaveOurKoalas campaign is holding a rally in Lismore on Sunday 11am till 1pm at the Lismore Quadrangle (map) to mark World Wildlife Day. This will be supported by a door knocking campaign on Saturday bringing the issue to the people of Lismore.
‘The NSW Government is trying to hide the fact that deforestation is devastating wildlife habitat in this state and koala numbers on the North Coast have halved in the past 20 years,” Nature Conservation Council #SaveOurKoalas community organiser Ed Mortimer said.
‘With new laws passed a year ago, 99 per cent of identified koala habitat on private land can now be bulldozed leaving next to no protections for koala habitat.
‘So, we are getting out and about having face-to-face conversations in our communities to make sure people understand the extent of the crisis facing koalas – and how we can end it once and for all.’
Not just logging
But it is not just logging that is severely impacting on koalas it is also the impact of human infrastructure from new houses to highways that are taking their toll.
‘Whilst logging causes problems for koalas, including in private plantations for Friends of the Koala (FOK) the bigger issue for us is habitat removal for highways and roads, residential, commercial, agricultural and industrial developments,’ said Dr Roslyn Irwin, president of FOK.
‘The coastal koalas have been decimated by residential development, and the Pacific Highway saw the removal of many koala food trees with its impact on Ballina’s and Lismore’s koalas. Whilst often the approval of the relevant development applications (DA) required replacement trees to be planted but they are often not close to where the trees were removed and of course it takes many years for them to grow to a height to be useful for koalas and of course some of the trees don’t survive.’
Living in the country
Even the desire for a ‘sea-change’ is having a serious impact as people move to the region bringing dogs, cats and other introduced species who don’t realise the impact lax approaches to containing their animals has on local wildlife.
‘Increasingly city people have moved into our bush areas where previously farmers had firm control of their working dogs. Many of these newcomers do not understand the devastation their dogs and cats cause to the bush wildlife,’ said one local long term resident who didn’t wish to be named.
‘Owners think it is fine to let their cats and dogs roam at will with no regard to what they are chasing, attacking and generally worrying. There has been an obvious reduction in recent years in hinterland bush areas of sightings of wallabies, possums, goannas, blue tongue lizards among others. I would urge anyone noticing straying cats and dogs to report them to our green Council who will take positive action.’