Study finds koala rescue plan may not be working – In Queensland

By July 11, 2023 November 21st, 2023 Archive

In Queensland

Tuesday July 11, 2023

A scheme allowing developers to offset their impact on koalas could be failing, according to a University of Queensland study.

UQ researchers have questioned a koala rescue scheme (file photo)
It found that the system, which allows developers to make financial payments to the Government, which then uses those funds to plant trees, “may fall short”.

UQ’s Professor Jonathan Rhodes, from the School of Environment, investigated koala populations in the south east.

He said the research found that suitable land for the trees was difficult to find and the payments insufficient to achieve the intended outcome “and this is a major problem”.
“Unfortunately, land supply can make suitable offset sites hard to find and this pushes up the cost of delivering habitat restoration and securing those sites in the long-term can fail to guarantee sufficient gains in habitat to counterbalance losses,” he said.

Professor Rhodes said funding from developer payments may be insufficient to buy enough offset sites for habitat restoration. “South East Queensland is the most densely human-populated area in the state, growing from 2.4 million people in 2001 to 3.5 million people in 2016, with 5.3 million people expected by 2041,” he said.

“It is also home to an enormous number of threatened species, including some of the most significant koala populations in Australia which have declined 50 to 80 per cent over the past two decades.
“This problem will become worse as the region expands and competition for land for development intensifies, making offset sites either impossible to find or more expensive to secure.”

The study mapped and modelled development in eight Local Government Areas (LGAs) within the South East Queensland Planning Region, applying ecological data and projecting anticipated development and offset outcomes.

While the researchers propose some solutions, they also call for consideration of immediate changes to the current offset policy.

“On one hand, financial payments by developers can provide flexibility for the State Government to deliver the most effective offsets to help threatened species such as koalas, but on the other hand, it’s essential that developers pay the true cost of those offsets,” Professor Rhodes said.
“Otherwise, offsets will fall short of compensating for habitat losses and species will continue to decline or taxpayers via the State Government will have to make up the shortfall in developer contributions.”

Study finds koala rescue plan may not be working