The Federal Government says it is taking further steps to protect koalas by calling for public comment on both a national recovery plan and whether the koala’s threatened species protection status in NSW, Queensland and the ACT should be raised from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’.
Following the devastating impacts of last year’s bushfires, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley asked the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC) to consider the animal’s threatened species status and consulted with a range of experts to reconsider draft Recovery Plan documents in light of the bushfire impacts.
“The images of burnt, injured, dehydrated and frightened koalas suffering during the bushfires were haunting,” Ley said.
“It has been critical that, as part of our $200-million wildlife and habitat bushfire response, we have had scientists assessing the best path forward for supporting the koala.
Any recovery plan must consider lessons from the fires
“That has included the need for threatened species experts to ensure any recovery plan for the koala considers the impact of the fires and the lessons learned for future action.
The TSSC is an independent scientific body and, as of yesterday (Friday) it is formally inviting public submissions on whether koalas in NSW, Queensland and the ACT should have their species status lifted.
“At the same time, [the TSSC] is calling for submissions on the proposed recovery plan that outlines six key strategies, including the building and sharing [of] knowledge of the species, community engagement and partnerships, the integration of koala conservation strategies into policy, and population management,” the Minister stated.
“We want to see koala populations recover and we are investing $24-million in habitat restoration, disease and genome research, population mapping and veterinary support.”
In May, the Greens party announced that it would introduce a bill to establish the Great Koala National Park on the mid-north coast of NSW.
Proposed bill would create a 315,000-hectare protected area
The bill would gazette 175,000 hectares of state forests, adding them to existing protected areas to form a 315,000-hectare protected area that would be home to around 20 percent of the NSW koala population.
“The number one threat driving koalas to extinction is habitat loss, which includes logging in core koala habitat,” said Cate Faehrmann, Greens MP and Chair of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into Koala Populations and their Habitat.
“Establishment of a Great Koala National Park would permanently preserve koala habitat which is currently subject to logging, while making the mid-north coast a massive drawcard for tourists.”
A University of Newcastle report found the Great Koala National Park would generate $412-million in visitor expenditure and create 9,810 full-time-equivalent jobs.