The NSW government's new koala habitat protection policy does not go far enough, environmental groups say.
The NSW government's new koala habitat protection policy does not go far enough, environmental groups say.

Koala policy 'not strong enough': Environmental experts

The NSW government's new koala protection policy must be strengthened if it's to make a real difference to the threatened species, environmental groups say.

A government policy published on Friday aims to reverse the current trend of koala population decline by encouraging conservation and management of habitats.

But the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019 does not go far enough, the Total Environment Centre, Nature Conservation Council and World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia said.

Devastating bushfires this season have resulted in the loss of at least 2000 koalas on the state's north coast, a parliamentary inquiry heard earlier this month.

The animals died either in bushfires or from starvation and dehydration afterwards, North East Forest Alliance president and ecologist Dailan Pugh said.

The Total Environment Centre said the government's policy is effectively toothless unless councils are made to urgently complete a koala management plan.

"Survival of koalas is at emergency level with the decline of populations, loss of habitat and the bushfires," centre director Jeff Angel said.

"We urge the government to do more, and quickly."

The centre has called on the government to set aside $2 million to support the plans.

The Nature Conservation Council also called for councils to be obliged to produce a plan.

"If the NSW government is serious about koala conservation, it should make the development of koala plans of management compulsory for all identified regions and ensure all councils have the resources they need to implement them," council campaigner Shirley Hall said.

Stuart Blanch, WWF Australia's senior manager for land clearing and restoration, expressed similar concerns.

"This policy won't stop the extinction of most of the 38 koala populations across the state," he said.

"If the premier wants to save koalas, she must rewrite native vegetation and forestry laws to protect the new areas mapped as 'core koala habitat' wherever it occurs."

This policy won't stop the extinction of most of the 38 koala populations across the state, Mr Blanch said.

"If the premier wants to save koalas, she must rewrite native vegetation and forestry laws to protect the new areas mapped as 'core koala habitat' wherever it occurs."

NSW Farmers claimed the new policy was more "green tape" for them - arguing it has the potential to place unreasonable limits on farming practices while bringing only limited conservation benefits.

President James Jackson said a particular area of concern was the mapping of potential koala habitat.

"Our members' experience of the use of mapping to underpin regulation of land management activities makes us very concerned about the likely reliability and fairness of the maps in particular," he said in a statement.

The NSW environment department has been contacted for comment.


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