The exclusion of rural and forestry zones from the new State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021 is ‘a disaster for koalas’, says Dailan Pugh from North East Forest Alliance (NEFA).
‘After all the years of effort and angst put into preparing the new SEPP it is incredible that Robert Stokes (Minister for Planning and Public Spaces) has now excluded rural and forestry zones from its ambit as these represent 2.4 million hectares (90 per cent) of north-east NSW’s private forests. It’d s a bad deal for koalas,’ he said.
Added to this is the revelation that ‘Deputy Premier and Nationals leader John Barilaro will have the final say over contested koala habitat under new laws,’ as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald.
‘Under the policy, the Planning Secretary may approve local councils to protect koala habitat, but the official “must obtain concurrence of the Secretary of Regional NSW”.
‘I think it is outrageous that planning secretary in Mr Barilaro’s has a say on whether KPoMs can be adopted. This gives us little faith that any more KPoMs will be to be protect anything worthwhile,’ Mr Pugh told The Echo.
‘Given that the SEPP is now mostly limited to development applications (DA) in existing environmental zones and lots over one ha in other zones its hard to know what it can achieve,’ said Mr Pugh.
‘Stokes deal is that the problematic and largely ineffective 1995 SEPP 44, with its 10 feed trees, will still apply to the rural and forestry zones. One step forward, 25 years back.
‘The price Stokes paid to get this token outcome is the opening up of identified core koala habitat for logging and self-assessed land clearing, allowing logging to over-ride Council’s Local Environment Plans (LEP), and stopping Councils being able to protect core koala habitat in environmental zones.
‘Robert Stokes and Matt Kean should be ashamed of themselves for signing off on this deal with the Nationals.’
Only coastal koalas protected
The Tweed and Byron Shires Coastal KPoMs were finally approved by the state government as part of the process. However, this only protects koalas in the costal areas of the two shires not the koalas and habitats in the hinterland and rural areas. It has taken the state government six years to approve Tweed Shire Council’s KPoM and five years for them to approve Byron Shire Councils.
‘NEFA welcomes the NSW government’s decision to approve Tweed and Byron’s KPoMs,’’ said Mr Pugh.
‘At least the core koala habitat they identify will continue to apply to DAs across all zones, though regrettably rather than being protected, soon it will be allowed to be logged and cleared under the Local Land Services Act,’ he said.
‘Unfortunately both KPoMs are limited to the coastal strip with no protection of hinterland koalas. Tweed’s only covers 18 per cent of the shire, encompassing some 3,800ha of highly fragmented koala habitat supporting some 140 koalas. Byron’s only covers 23 per cent of the shire covering about 2,000ha of highly fragmented habitat supporting some 240 koalas.’
Save the koalas
‘The community needs to let the government know that they will not accept the government hastening the extinction of Koalas by reducing the already weak protections for them,’ said Mr Pugh.
State wide actions are being planned for this weekend to protest against the new Koala SEPP and the increasing risk that koalas will be extinct in NSW by 2050. You can join a protest in your region:
- Murwillumbah: Saturday, 20 March at 10am at Knox Park
- Lismore: Sunday, 21 March at 11am across the road from the Carboot Market on Brewster St beside Humbly Oval (near the recycling centre). Speakers include Cindy Roberts (Widjabul Wia-bal Woman), Dailan Pugh (NEFA), Janelle Saffin (ALP), Daisy Nutty (XR), Angella Pollard (AJP)
- Byron Bay: Sunday, 21 March at 2 pm at the Peace Pole at the Denning Park. Speaker Dailan Pugh OAM (NEFA)
- Clarence Valley: Sunday, 21 March at 12 noon. A nature walk and picnic lunch will be held at Shannon Creek Dam
- Bulga Forest: Sunday, 21 March. Meet on the corner of Doyle’s River Rd and Bulga/Glenwarrin Rd. From there we will travel to French’s Creek Rd which is scheduled for logging later in the year to see if we can find evidence of koalas
- Nambucca Heads: Sunday, 21 March at 8.30am. Meet at the Visitor Information Centre
- Bellingen: Sunday, 21 March at 10.30am at Lavenders Bridge
- Armidale: Sunday, 21 March at 1pm. Meet at Edgar Street off Arundel Drive
- Sydney: Sunday, 21 March at 11am. Meet at Hyde Park Sydney near the Archibald Fountain