The NSW Koala Strategy released on Sunday almost completely ignores the community’s Great Koala National Park proposal which embraces two of the most important and unprotected koala meta-populations in NSW.
Koala populations have collapsed by 50% in the last 20 years and the Governments response is to propose protection of a small fragmented reserves generally in the steep hinterland on the north coast containing marginal koala habitat.
“ Although we welcome the shift in Government positioning on protecting koala habitat—the Member for Oxley as recently as February said koalas didn’t need ‘lines on maps’ —the Strategy is an inadequate response to a growing crisis”, said Ashley Love chairperson of the Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC).
Alternatively, the Government could have made a serious attempt at koala conservation and conserved high-quality koala habitat occurring in productive forests along the coast as included in the proposed Great Koala National Park. This is already public land, and therefore a much more cost-effective option.
By proposing small fragmented reserves in steep, remote and, in some cases, degraded forests the Government has lost the opportunity to showcase our koalas through visitor centres accessible to the public and a range of other visitor facilities as proposed in the Great Koala National Park.
To further highlight its failure to recognise koalas on the mid north coast no koala hospital is proposed in the Government’s strategy between Port Macquarie and Lismore, the area of the coast that includes the proposed Great Koala National Park.
“In failing to take up the proposal to build a koala hospital at the location of proposed Great Koala National Park Visitor Centre on the Pacific Highway at Pine Creek the Government is failing to support genuine koala conservation and ecotourism opportunities and short changing the Coffs Harbour community” Mr Love said.
“ The Great Koala National Park proposal has significant support in recognition of the long term benefits it will bring to local communities and businesses “ , said Caitlan Hockey, campaign coordinator for the Great Koala National Park.
“ We welcome transfer into National Parks of a small area in Oakes State Forest on the basis that it is in the steep and rugged upper headwaters of the Kalang River west of Bellingen, has highly erodible soils, heavy rainfall intensity and is a headwater area of the catchment that should be protected”, said Mr Love.
“Unfortunately, this seems to be the key approach of the strategy: to protect areas that are already unwanted by the logging industry due to their isolation, erodibility or degradation. This means that the strategy delivers minimal conservation gains, and is an inadequate response to the scale of the problem.”
“In contrast, the Great Koala National Park would protect koala habitat identified as some of the most significant in Australia and at great risk from intensive logging. It would be a globally significant network of national parks, befitting a globally significant species”, Ms Caitlan said.
Press Release from the BEC – 7 May 2018.