By political reporter Jake Evans
Posted 28 Jan 2022
Another $50 million will be spent on koala projects over the next four years.(Supplied: Kyabram Fauna Park)
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The federal government has committed an extra $50 million for the next four years to recovering koala populations, after the Black Summer bushfires devastated marsupial populations.
- The federal government has tripled its funding for koala recovery
- New money will be spent on habitat protection and restoration and research
- The Greens have pushed for a ban on all koala habitat clearing
Climate change, habitat loss and 2019-20’s horror summer bushfire season have brought some koala populations to the brink of extinction.
Estimates of how many koalas remain in the wild vary greatly, but it is widely accepted the population was in decline well before the bushfires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the new money would be spent on habitat protection, community-led restoration projects and population monitoring, among other initiatives.
“Our $50 million investment will enhance the protection of koalas by restoring koala habitat, improving our understanding of koala populations, supporting training in koala treatment and care and strengthening research into koala health outcomes,” Mr Morrison said.
“Koalas are one of Australia’s most-loved and best-recognised icons, both here at home and across the world, and we are committed to protecting them for generations to come.”
The new money brings the total federal investment in koalas to $74 million since 2019.
Among the funding commitments are $20 million extra for habitat and health protection projects to be run by Natural Resource Management and non-government organisations.
$10 million will be used to extend the national koala monitoring program, including increasing the number of sites sampled.
The Australian Koala Foundation has previously criticised census efforts by the government, saying the focus of its efforts should be squarely on habitat protection.
The foundation has also warned that the government is greatly overestimating remaining populations, and claims there could be as few as 50,000 left in the wild.
Since the bushfires, the federal Greens have pushed for a moratorium on clearing koala habitat and introduced a bill in February last year that would prevent the environment minister from approving habitat clearing.
The Senate’s environment committee is inquiring into the bill and is due to report next month.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said the government was already working on restoring koala habitats.
“The extra funding will build on work already happening across the koala range to restore and connect important habitat patches, control feral animal and plant species and improve existing habitat,” Ms Ley said.
“Current funding is already supporting eight strategic habitat restoration projects that target thousands of hectares in significant koala areas in eastern Australia.”