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Byron Shire
February 9, 2023

#SaveOurKoalas day found sun in Murwillumbah

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The #SaveOurKoalas Day of Action group on Saturday. Photo Jimmy Malecki.

Though the #SaveOurKoalas Day of Action planned for Byron Bay on Sunday had to be cancelled owing to the current weather conditions, the event at Murwillumbah went ahead and was well attended.

The Murwillumbah event was one of many similar public gatherings scheduled to be held across NSW over the weekend to reject current regressive Liberal National Party (LNP) environmental policy direction leading to the imminent extinction of koalas and other native species in NSW.

A strong and enthusiastic crowd of around 200 listened to NRG’s president Scott Sledge and guest speakers including Dailan Pugh OAM from North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and local animal and environmental activist Susie Hearder. The speakers collectively delivered a strong rebuke to the NSW State Government.

“NRG’s message is simple”, said Mr Sledge, “without immediate and urgent action to permanently halt government sanctioned habitat destruction on private and public land by individuals and companies with commercial vested interests, the Northern Rivers and NSW will lose its remaining koala populations, which have already been significantly impacted from ongoing and unmitigated habitat loss and the Black Summer bushfires,”

NRG event organiser, Lori Scinto confirmed, “NRG distributed flyers to those who attended encouraging people to contact NSW members of parliament to demand immediate and meaningful legislative reforms. One of the demands was for the urgent implementation of all 42 recommendations from the bipartisan NSW Inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW.  The Government has only agreed to support 11 of the 42 recommendations.”

Dailan Pugh delivered a strong overview and reminder of the alarming government failures with critical koala protection legislation, confirming the ongoing and rapid regression in meaningful reforms has left koala populations more vulnerable than ever before.  Pugh said, “It is D Day in the Koala Wars, this is the day we need to turn around koalas’ extinction trajectory and begin their recovery. First we need to urgently identify where their core habitat is and then we need to protect it, to save koalas we need to stop their homes being indiscriminately cleared and logged on both private and public lands.” Pugh went on to say “The Government’s latest attack is not just about koalas, they also intend to take away councils’ rights to include high conservation value vegetation in environmental zones, and their rights to prohibit or constrain clearing and logging in them.”

“The Government has taken 6 years to approve the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management (KPOM), which only covers 18% of the shire, the coastal strip, encompassing some 3,800 ha of highly fragmented Koala habitat supporting some 140 Koalas. 82% of the Tweed will receive no protection and all environmental zones will be opened up for logging”

Susie Hearder spoke about the local impact of industrial logging “witnessing wilful koala habitat and environmental destruction on high conservation land on an adjoining property and the distress of seeing koalas fleeing their homes for safety as well as the destruction of platypus habitat in the local creeks.”  She went on to say ‘that NSW Government agencies turned a blind eye and the only agency that took an interest in the environment and koalas was Tweed Shire Council, yet now all local council’s ability to protect our precious koalas and environment will be stripped. It is unacceptable that John Barilaro, National MP who apparently refers to koalas as “tree rats” can continue to pull the strings of the NSW government and now apparently has the final say on yet another new koala SEPP. It appears the Government is more intent on saving the coalition, rather than endangered koalas.”

“Whilst NRG welcome the acquisition of the 73.5 ha of land on Clothiers Creek Road to be added to Cudgen Nature Reserve for koala habitat protection, as Mr Pugh highlighted, the new SEPP (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021 made on 17 March does not apply to rural and forestry zones, which comprise a staggering 90% equating to 2.4 million ha of private forests in north-east NSW. The Government has already removed protection of core Koala habitat for the 20% of Koalas that live in State Forests, and now they have removed critical protection for the over 60% of koalas that live on private land.“

Ms Hearder said, “Geoff Provest voted for the previous LLS bill referred to as the “Koala Killing Bill” and the Premier and Ministers Matt Kean and Rob Stokes have left a trail of broken promises and have demonstrated that they are more keen on preserving the LNP Coalition than the existence of koalas in NSW.”

NRG has vowed to continue to collaborate with all like-minded organisations to fight the NSW government to ensure meaningful protection for all NSW koalas.

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