18 JANUARY 2021 – 6:00PM
VULNERABLE: The Koala Action Group says stronger government protections are needed for koalas and their habitat.
THE Koala Action Group is calling for a moratorium on habitat removal on the back of the state government’s “impotent” koala strategy.
A petition last year called on the state government to increase protections for koalas, including by suspending the removal of koala habitat until effective protections are in place and listing the koala as critically endangered in south-east Queensland.
Group president Debbie Pointing said the petition had received nearly 4000 signatures, showing many in the community thought the government should ramp up koala protections.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon responded to the petition this month, saying amending the planning framework had resulted in the strongest koala habitat protections Queensland had ever seen.
The new framework, which came into effect a year ago, introduced koala priority areas with strict clearing restrictions.
Exemptions allow some clearing for limited development and essential services like removing dangerous trees and firebreaks.
The Koala Action Group petition said the exemptions allowed for unsustainable clearing to continue.
“The (Koala Conservation Strategy) abounds with motherhood statements … (that) contain so many exemptions that … development will continue unabated,” Ms Pointing said.
The strategy was released in August and contains 46 strategies to protect and restore habitat and mitigate threats to koalas.
It prompted outrage from local councillors, with mayor Karen Williams saying new mapping reduced protections on thousands of hectares of land.
Ms Scanlon said mapping had since been updated and the state government was addressing expert recommendations that councils protect habitat not mapped by the state.
Landholders could apply to make, amend or revoke koala habitat on their land.
Ms Pointing said having landowners put their hands up to have their properties included was ridiculous.
“It’s unrealistic,” she said.
“We also have concerns that landowners can apply to have mapping revoked from individual properties.”
The group also called for koalas to be listed as critically endangered, saying the strategy was unlikely to prevent declining populations.
Ms Scanlon said the federal government was in charge of assessing nominations for reclassification where animals occurred across several jurisdictions.
Ms Pointing said it was a disappointing response.
“KAG would like to see the Labor government be proactive in elevating the current vulnerable listing of the koala considering this listing occurred nine years ago and clearly has failed to protect koalas and their habitat,” she said.
“Our group does not have any faith that the strategy in its current form will make any difference to the decline of koalas in south-east Queensland.
“We want to see urban koalas and their habitat protected immediately, not in the future.”