QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT KOALA EXPERT PANEL & INQUIRY
The Queensland Conservation Council (the state’s peak conservation organisation) is deeply concerned about the plight of the koala in the southeast part of Queensland, recognising the species has experienced a dramatic collapse in population in recent years, and likely faces eventual extinction in the wild in the region.
The Queensland Government has established a Koala Expert Panel to provide advice on “the protection of the vulnerable koala in southeast Queensland”.
The need for projection measures for the local and subregional populations of koalas in southeast Queensland, and the risks of extinction in this region have previously been acknowledged by government (Qld Department of Environment 2008) and by conservation specialists (such as Professor Frank Carrick 2009).
The Queensland Conservation Council believes there are some fundamental reforms necessary to help protect the koala in southeast Queensland, including:
- Stopping the clearing of koala habitat under the Vegetation Management Act.
- Fixing current legislation which acts to facilitate destructive development in koala habitat areas (eg roads and transport laws, planning law, state development laws, offsets laws).
- Stopping road kill with ‘Green Fauna Infrastructure’, changing road speeds, and so on.
- Reducing the escalation of koala euthanasia rates, and releasing official statistics on this.
- Eliminating wild dogs from koala habitat areas.
- Implementing Bushland Buyback and joining up wildlife and nature corridors.
Current Queensland Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles has set up an Expert Panel with four Commissioners, working through a staggered process over a twelve-month timeframe. The formal commencement of this period is unclear due to the Terms of Reference remaining draft at this point in time.
The Panel has invited initial community input via a ten question online survey which closes on 21st October 2016.
The survey asks about where you live and what you see as the current threats to koalas, and how they could be addressed. It also asks about the current measures of koala protection (planning laws, environmental laws, veterinary services) and which (if any) you think are working well, not working well and how they could be improved.
There is space to make additional comments or provide other ideas.
The online survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/DWL88PP
See below for some suggested comments to include in your responses.
Responses need to be completed by 21st October
Other submissions on koala decline and protection can be made to the Business Review Unit of the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection: email: BRU.NCS@ehp.qld.gov.au
Suggested responses to survey questions:
Model Answers to Questions in the Online Survey are dependent on Planning Schemes/Local
Plans, Local Laws and Enforcement (fines are no deterrent) and your local threats and circumstances.
Survey Q2: Most Legislative provisions are not adequately tied to the Precautionary Principle or Ecologically Sustainable Development, and overridden by planning schemes and Council and State Government Decisions. The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is denied environmental veto, advice and referral powers to SARA at DILGP. The Vegetation Management Act no longer protects High Value Regrowth vegetation (which can be just as important as remnant woodland for koalas). Offsets appear to be a foregone conclusion, but most clearing is not in the State Offsets Register, indicating Local Authority or as of right or other Offset /Exemption clearing has unacceptably occurred.
Survey Q3: The re-evaluation of the Statutory Protection Mapping to include High Value Regrowth & Secondary Habitat is warranted as most Primary Habitat has gone. Essential Koala Habitat mapping where available is good, but developer consultants’ single day koala studies avoid it and the Offsets Act overrides it. Detailed field studies are needed. High Conservation Value Regrowth and remnant woodlands and trees in koala areas need immediate protection.
Survey Q4: The Definition of core matters, instruments, innovations and programs (Green Fauna Infrastructure) must be defined in legislation and planning schemes, and charged for. Delegation of koala habitat protection to areas outside of planning schemes as policies or strategies is ineffective.
Survey Q6: The greatest threats causing harm are land clearing, dogs, traffic and stress induced disease.
Survey Q7: It is difficult to determine the division of harm because of the lack of four years’ worth of complex koala statistics indicating populations, demographics, observations, injuries and mortality.
Survey Q8: Recommendations relate to fundamental reforms above. Reject the 40% Chlamydia koala cull. Declaration of Koala Endangered Status for SEQ is needed.
Other comments: Most Legislation is failing, including the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 because of a lack of enforcement, overriding legislation, poor planning, lack of habitat protection, lack of mitigation instruments and the operations of Offsets Act 2014.
The Queensland Conservation Council is also deeply concerned about:
The loss of koala expertise (scientists and other staff) to monitor and implement responses over recent years.
The lack of mapping and koala statistics post 2012
escalating euthanasia rates of koalas
gaps of contemporary knowledge on land use change and koala mortality
An overall lack of government commitment and action to reverse the plight of the koala in southeast Queensland.
For more details on any of the above contact Ted Fensom (member of QCC Executive and BREC representative on ph: 3801 2097 (after hours only).
Queensland Conservation Council, 9/10 Thomas St, West End 4101, p: 3846 7833