First, HSI welcomed NSW Labor’s commitment to establish a Great Koala National Park. The Great Koala National Park, as proposed by the National Parks Association of NSW, covers 315,000 ha of public land in the Coffs Harbour region. Koalas are a dispersed species needing healthy, mature forests. That means that protecting habitat for the koala has the advantage of protecting habitat for many other species. The area proposed for the Great Koala National Park is a biodiversity hotspot, estimated to contain almost 20% of NSW’s remaining wild koalas. The creation of this Park would be an important step in our efforts to save the koala from extinction in NSW by 2050.  

The Great Koala National Park was designed by scientists and others as the key component of a larger strategic koala reserve network for the north coast. Labor’s commitment to a Great Koala National Park recognises the important work that scientists and communities have done over many years to bring the plight of the koala to public attention. If you are a NSW resident, you can show your support for the Great Koala National Park and encourage the Perrottet Government to support it by signing The Great Koala National Park ePetition that is currently before the NSW Parliament. 

Labor also made welcome commitments to hold a koala summit; to work cooperatively with landholders and other levels of government to increase protected areas and wildlife corridors in key koala habitats; and to ensure the statutory review of the Biodiversity Conservation Act strengthens environmental protections, stops run away land clearing, and fixes the biodiversity offset scheme.  

Also last week the Perrottet Government responded to a Parliamentary petition signed by many NSW based HSI supporters, calling on the government to declare an Upper Georges River Koala National Park, stop the rezoning of Stage 2 of the Gilead development in south western Sydney and review the approval of Stage 1, build five effective koala crossings on Appin Road at Appin, and implement minimum 450m wide koala corridors across the rivers and creeks of Macarthur. The Government’s response focused on their work in developing the NSW Koala Strategy; a promised Georges River Koala Reserve; a commitment to at least two koala crossings at Appin Road; and a commitment to protecting functional koala corridors across the Greater Macarthur region. 

The NSW Koala Strategy outlines the NSW Government’s key koala conservation targets. The Government has committed over $190 million to delivering the strategy and their existing target of doubling the number of koalas in NSW by 2050. Unfortunately, the other measures identified in the response to the Parliamentary petition rely heavily on the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan, a document that, in HSI’s opinion, fails to adequately protect koalas, or the broader environment, in the proposed development areas of south-western Sydney. 

The national Koala Recovery Plan, which covers koala populations in NSW, makes it clear that the key threat to the east coast koala population is land clearing. We need to urgently ensure our environment and planning laws prevent clearing of critical koala habitat across all land tenures, and consider the cumulative impacts of land clearing, climate change and other factors impacting on koalas. We also need to see further action to end native forest logging and enhance private land conservation. 

There are currently over 2,000 species and habitats listed as threatened under our federal environmental legislation. To turn the extinction crisis around, we need all levels of government to take urgent action to stop large scale land clearing, address climate change and invest significant more core funding in promoting recovery and addressing threats for all our threatened species. As home to so many species that are found nowhere else in world, Australia has a particular responsibility to protect our wildlife and their habitats. It’s time for governments at all levels to step up to ensure we save all our species from extinction, including the koala.

Koalas in the spotlight for New South Wales election Response to NSW Government response to Primate Research Parliamentary Inquiry