URGENT: An alliance of environmental groups headed by the Environmental Defenders Office is calling for an immediate ban on koala habitat clearing.
THE state government has missed a four-week deadline for a ban on koala habitat clearing set by an alliance of environmental groups, including some from the Redlands.
Koala Action Group, Birkdale Progress Association, Redlands2030 and other Queensland environmental groups formed a coalition headed by the Environmental Defenders Office to call on the state government in a letter to enact the ban as a matter of urgency.
The letter, sent to several state government members on April 3, called for a moratorium on clearing key koala habitat until recommendations for koala protection set out in a 2017 report could be enacted.
The letter gave a four-week time-frame for the ban to be enacted.
Koala Action Group president Debbie Pointing said that thanks to rapid decline in koala populations over the last two decades, urgent action was now required.
“What (the government) is doing to date has not worked,” Ms Pointing said. “We have not seen a slowing down of loss of habitat.
We’re at a critical crossroads and something needs to be done now.
A 2017 report by a Queensland koala expert panel report found evidence of catastrophic declines in some koala populations and identified a need for urgent policy change.
It suggested the Redlands as a possible priority area for focused koala conservation efforts.
The EDO letter said implementing the report’s recommendations would be delayed by stakeholder consultation and policy development processes but koalas could not afford to wait.
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EDO solicitor Jo-Anne Bragg said the moratorium was designed to temporarily halt clearing of key koala habitat while permanent legislative changes were made.
“There are other good precedents for governments using moratoriums to prevent dangerous environmental impacts while the government takes the necessary steps to pass the new laws needed,” she said.
A moratorium was enacted on tree-clearing applications in 2003 while reforms to vegetation management were pending.
Another was imposed in 2009.
The four-week deadline set out in the letter passed earlier in May but no moratorium has been imposed by the state government.
An Environment Department spokesperson said while habitat loss was the most significant problem affecting south-east Queensland koalas, it needed to be addressed with other factors.
These factors included disease management, traffic, dog attacks and effective rescue and rehabilitation programs.
“Any approach to koala conservation must also consider community expectations such as affordable housing, transport and other infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.
“The (koala conservation strategy) will therefore focus on a coordinated approach of different measures that, when combined, are effective at reducing the decline in koala populations.”
CLEARED: Trees on Shore Street East that were cleared in 2017 supported Cleveland’s remaining koalas. Photo: Chris Walker
Ms Bragg said the response was disappointing.
“We know what needs to be done,” she said.
Koala populations are at a crisis point in which they are quickly moving towards extinction in south-east Queensland.
“We need the government to take this issue seriously and implement laws urgently that will prevent any further clearing or impacts to their habitat so that south-east Queensland will still have koalas long into the future.”
A state government-appointed koala council will provide advice on the development of a new Queensland koala conservation strategy, due for release later this year.
Koala Action Group will host an information session on koala habitat laws from 1pm on May 25 at Lions Hall in Cleveland.