Koala population crash highlights long list of government failures, report finds

By March 11, 2017News

By Stephanie Smail     ABC News    2017-03-10

PHOTO: Government inconsistencies cause habitat loss and population decline, an expert panel says. (Supplied: Taronga Zoo)

RELATED STORY: Koala extinction ‘imminent’ in parts of south-east Queensland

Koala protection efforts are failing in Queensland despite clear evidence of devastating population losses, a new report has found.

An expert panel, established by the State Government after the ABC revealed a catastrophic population crash in south-east Queensland’s Koala Coast and Pine Rivers regions, delivered an interim report.

It outlined a long list of failures in government policy, planning and mapping, which continued to put the vulnerable population at risk.

The report stated laws introduced to protect koalas since 2008 have “had very little impact in slowing the rate of habitat loss”.

It found existing laws favoured urban development and were “not constructed to halt … impacts on koala populations”.

Overlaps and inconsistencies between local, state and Commonwealth land-clearing and development rules were also to blame for habitat loss and population decline, the panel found.

So-called “offsets”, used by developers and government authorities to justify the clearing of koala habitat, were also criticised.

The interim report said there was evidence that offsets — where new trees were planted or another area was cited as a replacement habitat — were not working and even led to “potential perverse outcomes”.

Environment Minister Steven Miles said the better monitoring and mapping recommended in the report would be a priority.

“We need to improve the quality of the mapping so we have a better sense of where our koalas are,” Mr Miles said.

‘Less talk, more action’ needed

But conservation groups said the expert panel had “pulled its punches”.

Queensland Conservation Council coordinator Tim Seelig said the report lacked any push for urgent action and he called for a moratorium on clearing to protect koalas.

“We need some radical action to put a stop to this ongoing decline before the koala become extinct in Queensland,” he said.

“The State Government should immediately declare the koala endangered in south-east Queensland and they should implement a moratorium on any clearing in south-east Queensland.”

Mr Seelig said the State Government’s new South East Regional Plan must make conservation a priority.

“If we can’t have planning laws that protect our special environment we won’t have any natural environment left and we won’t have any koalas left either,” he said.

A summary of the interim report is available at:

https://www.ehp.qld.gov.au/wildlife/koalas/pdf/koala-expert-panel-interim-report-summary.pdf

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-03-10/koala-continue-decline-se-qld-despite-protection-efforts-report/8342942