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Koalas have been doing it tough in NSW for some time. On top of land clearing, the Black Summer bushfires put their long-term future in serious doubt, with the recent Parliamentary Inquiry into Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales finding that without effective intervention, koalas will become extinct in NSW by 2050.
We cheered in July when the NSW Environment Minister, Matt Kean, committed to not letting that happen and instead doubling the state’s koala population by 2050. However, actions speak louder than words.
And sadly, following a very public stoush between the Liberal and National parties over koalas, the NSW Government has declared support for the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020, a piece of legislation that will remove many hard-won gains made for koalas over the past 25 years.
The Bill has already been rushed through the Lower House, and is scheduled to go to the Upper House in early November. If the Bill passes, the results will be disastrous for NSW’s koalas.
Essentially, the Bill allows for:
A freeze on the amount of koala habitat that can be protected in Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management,
More clearing to take place in environmental zones,
Taking control away from councils by removing their ability to require a Development Application for land clearing activities,
Private Native Forestry (logging and timber production on private land) to be given free reign, and the duration of Private Native Forestry operations to be doubled from 15 to 30 years.
These are clearly inappropriate policy settings given the current plight of koalas. The loss, modification and fragmentation of their habitat is considered the key threat to their survival.
The changes are also inappropriately being considered in advance of the finalisation of the NSW Government’s three-year review of the land management framework and pre-empt the outcomes of their current Private Native Forestry Review.
HSI has been working hard over many years to try to secure a safe future for NSW’s koalas, recently nominating them for increased state and federal protections, as well as supporting wildlife carers who are selflessly dedicated to rescuing koalas in need. Unfortunately this Bill explicitly aims to reduce protections for koalas, and represents a major wind back in environmental protections that will allow increased environmental degradation across NSW.
We hope that you will join us in urging the NSW Government to abandon the Bill, so that our koalas have a chance at survival beyond 2050.
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Evan Quartermain is Head of Programs at Humane Society International and has been with the organisation since 2010. A member of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, Evan is responsible for HSI’s terrestrial habitat and wildlife protection campaigns and programs, with particular focus on legislative reform, flying-foxes, dingoes, and habitat protection through Threatened Ecological Community and Natural Heritage nominations.