Labor has slammed the Berejiklian Government’s Koala Strategy as a miniscule fig leaf to cover the damage the NSW Government has wrought on endangered koalas across New South Wales.
The NSW Koala Strategy was released yesterday, one year late and five years after the previous, comprehensive Koala Recovery Plan, developed in 2008, had lapsed.Since 2011 the Liberal Government has done more to harm koalas than save them, including:
• Introducing land clearing laws that could see eight million hectares of core koala habitat destroyed;
• Signing off on clearing codes that will allow 99 per cent of koala habitat on private land to be cleared;
• Selling off core koala habitat to developers for $250,000 at the Mambo Wetlands in Port Stephens;
• Directing the route of the Pacific Highway Upgrade at Ballina through core koala habitat;
• Refusing to support the Great Koala National Park, instead calling it “a political gimmick”;
• Allowing housing development in core koala habitat in the Macarthur region and including the upgrade of Picton Road without adequate protections for the only chlamydia-free koala population in NSW;
• Carting off koalas in sacks from the Liverpool Plains to make way for the Shenhua coal mine; and
• Allowing logging operations that do not properly take into account koalas in state forests, with further weakening of the protections currently in place.
Labor further criticised the strategy as lacking in detail and missing important information about key koala populations in places like Port Macquarie, Bellingen, Ballina and Coffs Harbour.NSW is home to fewer that ten per cent of Australia’s koalas and 90 per cent of our koala populations are in decline.
Labor will release a comprehensive koala policy in coming months but has already committed to:
• Prioritising the creation of national parks that protect the remaining koala populations of the North Coast. Eucalypt forests and rainforests that are home to significant koala populations will be assessed for priority additions to the national park estate.
• Holding a New South Wales Koala Summit, as a matter of urgency, to bring together experts and all stakeholders concerned with koala protection to design and deliver an effective recovery plan across the state. The last Koala Summit was held in 1988.
• Restoring land clearing laws to protect koala habitats.
Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe
“This strategy provides nothing more than a flimsy cover for the destruction of koala habitat that has happened under this government. “Whether koala habitat has been sold off to developers or been allowed to be cleared indiscriminately, the message is simple, you cannot pretend to care about koalas if you allow the destruction of the trees and land they need to survive.”