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Parks charity condemns government for $20 million koala investment

The $20 million investment to buy koala habitats from landowners is welcome but charities have warned it is doomed to fail in light of policy settings driving deforestation

The Environment Trust has purchased koala habitats from landholders for $20 million in an effort to save the vulnerable species, but animal charities have warned that this will not do enough – and the government will need to renew its commitment.

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA), which has overseen many of NSW national parks and reserves for 60 years, said the promised investment was a welcome one, but that if the governments are really committed to saving koalas, more should be done.

NPA Senior Ecologist, Oisín Sweeney, said: “In the last few years, the NSW government has overseen an acceleration of tree clearing, is sitting on its hands and allowing urban development to destroy koala habitat and is poised to implement logging laws that will dramatically intensify logging in koala habitat on public land.”

He added that in light of the “terrible policy settings”, the $20 million investment will not save the species from extinction because “it simply won’t protect enough habitat”.

On current prices, the $20 million investment in land purchases in the Coffs Harbour area will only buy under 1,500 hectares. Sweeney said it was not enough to save koalas and in order to make a proper investment, the government “must be complemented by efforts to protect koala habitat on public land and proper regulation of tree clearing”.

“By the Minister’s own admission, the koala reserves the Government has made so far have been selected on the basis that they don’t impact on timber supplies, rather than their importance for koalas. Many of them have no koala records and no koala habitat.”

It comes as Labor insists that it will prioritise the creation of national parks, including the Great Koala National Park, if they are elected amid concerns the Greens are not helping.

Labor MP Penny Sharpe wrote an open letter to Greens member, Jamie Parker, over his “deliberate” misleading of the party’s support for the Great Koala National Park. Parker accused Labor of not supporting the national park during disagreements.

“The Greens are able to pursue your political objectives in any way you see fit but you have done yourselves and the people who are passionate about our national parks a great disservice by choosing to mislead the community,” Sharpe said.

NPA has proposed several koala reserves that would protect habitat and public lands, and added it would make a positive difference because the government itself has identified them as important areas.  The 50 new identifiable listings represent areas which are now considered to be catch-up areas and areas that should already be protected.

“The Great Koala National Park alone would protect 175,000 hectares of public forests near Coffs Harbour and has been shown to be of paramount important for koalas. That’s 100 times more habitat for $20 million less, because we already own these forests.”

Sweeney added that the government’s proposed ‘intensive harvesting zone’ for the mid-north coast will be able to be clear-felled in a single operation.

“We call on the government to reinstate tree clearing protections, to toughen its planning policy that it has been reviewing since 2016 and to create the Great Koala National Park if it’s serious about saving koalas,” Sweeney said.

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