Scientists say koala crash is caused by intense development aided by poor planning laws

By March 11, 2017News

Brian Williams Redland City Bulletin,     10 Mar 2017, 3 p.m.

A REPORT on the demise of koalas in south east Queensland has blamed the rate of urban development for much of the damage.

The Koala Expert Panel interim report says state legislation is designed to facilitate urban development in areas where koalas occur and was not set up to halt the further loss of koala habitat or reduce impacts.

The report was released by Environment Minister Steven Miles who ordered the work.

It says the regulatory framework is complex and inconsistent, especially in regard to the interaction between local, state and federal levels.

Legislation – like the South East Queensland Regional Plan – lacks the ability to deal with cumulative impacts on koalas.

UNDER PRESSURE: Koalas like this animal in care on North Stradbroke Island are being impacted by many things, but none as bad as urban development.

Problems occur when case-by-case development assessments occur that ignore cumulative impacts and requirements for koalas.

The regional plan is lacking in detail and application of planning regulations occur mainly at local and property scale.

Despite passionate advocacy by koala groups, community and institutional behaviour has not changed to accommodate the co-existence of koalas and their habitat in urban and rural areas.

The comments are particularly pointed for the Redlands where the Koala Action Group has campaigned for years, asking Redland City Council to protect remnant koala food trees on footpaths and development blocks without little success.

Last week and despite a tightening of regulations at the 11th hour, council approved its draft city plan which allows some rural land owners to clear vegetation without the need for a permit.

University of Queensland Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes, who chairs the panel, said the key issues were strategic policy settings, threat management, planning processes, mapping and monitoring.

“The panel will provide advice on these issues in its final recommendations due later this year but it’s good to see progress being made in the key area of improving koala habitat mapping in the meantime,’’ he said.

Mr Miles said new maps would get down to a level of detail which previously was not possible. Better detailed maps would greatly help identify and protect important habitat.

The panel’s final report would include specific recommendations for koala policy and management as well as how progress could be evaluated.

The panel’s terms of reference had been amended to seek its input into the draft State Planning Policy and the new draft regional plan for South East Queensland, ShapingSEQ.

The interim report is available at:

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

http://www.redlandcitybulletin.com.au/story/4522109/high-rate-of-urban-development-and-poor-laws-blamed-for-koala-crash/?cs=213