June 7, 2016
By Tracey FerrierAAP
The Queensland government admits efforts to save koalas are failing and will turn to scientists to salvage what’s left of once healthy populations.
A dire scientific report, commissioned by the government, has found koalas are effectively extinct in parts of the state’s southeast corner.
The government hopes $12 million in next Tuesday’s budget can arrest the catastrophic population decline recorded over the past 20 years.
The South East Queensland Koala Population Modelling Study found numbers are down by more than 80 per cent on the Koala Coast, in and around Brisbane, and by 50 per cent in the Pine Rivers region north of the city.
Environment Minister Steven Miles says there’s no sign that koala numbers are stabilising in the southeast, but he hopes the new funding can change that.
He says it’s clear habitat protection efforts in developing areas like Pine Rivers have failed, and wants the scientists behind the study to suggest new strategies. “We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting a different result,” he told ABC radio on Tuesday. “We need to find and protect new reserves that are outside urban development areas so that we can ensure viable populations.”
Dr Miles admits the government doesn’t know how many koalas Queensland has, despite the marsupial being listed as a vulnerable species.
He says there’s just not enough data to hazard a guess. But he says other areas haven’t necessarily seen the same declines as the southeast, because threats vary from region to region.
Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes, who wrote the report on the southeast population plunge, will chair an expert panel that will advise the government on how best to protect the remaining koalas.
Australian Koala Foundation chief executive Deborah Tabart is touring marginal electorates hoping to pressure the federal government to do more to protect koalas ahead of the July election. She’s lobbying the major parties to support a new federal act to specifically protect koalas, something Dr Miles has so far declined to back. “I think the public are sick of announcements of $12 million, of $5 million, of this, of that. It’s time for us to start planning our cities properly,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Greens say Australia needs a new environmental watchdog to ensure the survival of iconic species, including the koala.
The $12 million Queensland has promised will be provided over four years, and is in addition to ongoing funding of $2.6 million a year for koala protection.