The clouds parted and the sun was shining on koala advocates who gathered at Knox Park in Murwillumbah on Saturday, for the Northern Rivers Guardians (NRG) hosted #SaveOurKoalas Day of Action. The Murwillumbah event was one of many similar public gatherings scheduled to be held across NSW over the weekend to reject current regressive Liberal National Party (LNP) environmental policy direction leading to the imminent extinction of koalas and other native species in NSW.
A strong and enthusiastic crowd of around 200 listened to NRG’s president Scott Sledge and guest speakers including Dailan Pugh OAM from North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) and local animal and environmental activist Susie Hearder. The speakers collectively delivered a strong rebuke to the NSW State Government.
“NRG’s message is simple”, said Mr Sledge, “without immediate and urgent action to permanently halt government sanctioned habitat destruction on private and public land by individuals and companies with commercial vested interests, the Northern Rivers and NSW will lose its remaining koala populations, which have already been significantly impacted from ongoing and unmitigated habitat loss and the Black Summer bushfires. “
NRG event organiser, Lori Scinto confirmed, “NRG distributed flyers to those who attended encouraging people to contact NSW members of parliament to demand immediate and meaningful legislative reforms. One of the demands was for the urgent implementation of all 42 recommendations from the bipartisan NSW Inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW. The Government has agreed to support only 11 of the 42 recommendations.”
Dailan Pugh delivered a strong overview and reminder of the alarming government failures with critical koala protection legislation, confirming the ongoing and rapid regression in meaningful reforms has left koala populations more vulnerable than ever before. Pugh said, “It is D- Day in the Koala Wars, this is the day we need to turn around koalas’ extinction trajectory and begin their recovery. First we need to urgently identify where their core habitat is and then we need to protect it. To save koalas we need to stop their homes being indiscriminately cleared and logged on both private and public lands.” Pugh went on to say, “The Government’s latest attack is not just about koalas, they also intend to take away councils’ rights to include high conservation value vegetation in environmental zones, and their rights to prohibit or constrain clearing and logging in them.
the “The Government has taken 6 years to approve the Tweed Coast Koala Plan of Management (KPOM), which only covers 18% of the shire, the coastal strip, encompassing some 3,800 ha of highly fragmented Koala habitat supporting some 140 Koalas. 82% of the Tweed will receive no protection and all environmental zones will be opened up for logging”.
Ms Hearder spoke about the local impact of industrial logging “witnessing willful koala habitat and environmental destruction on high conservation land on an adjoining property and the distress of seeing koalas fleeing their homes for safety as well as the destruction of platypus habitat in the local creeks.” She went on to say that “NSW Government agencies turned a blind eye and the only agency that took an interest in the environment and koalas was Tweed Shire Council, yet now all local councils’ rights to prohibit or regulate logging will be removed and environmental zones opened up for logging. It is unacceptable that John Barilaro, National MP who reportedly refers to koalas as “tree rats” can continue to pull the strings of the NSW government and now apparently has the final say on yet another new koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP). It appears the Government is more intent on saving the coalition, rather than endangered koalas.”
“Whilst NRG welcome the acquisition of the 73.5 ha of land on Clothiers Creek Road to be added to Cudgen Nature Reserve for koala habitat protection, as Mr Pugh highlighted, the new SEPP (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021 made on 17 March does not apply to rural and forestry zones, which comprise a staggering 90%, equating to 2.4 million ha of private forests in north-east NSW. The Government has already removed protection of core Koala habitat for the 20% of Koalas that live in State Forests, and now they have removed critical protection for the over 60% of koalas that live on private land.”
Ms Hearder said, “Geoff Provest voted for the previous Local Land Services (Miscellaneous) Amendment Bill 2020 dubbed the ‘Koala Killing Bill’ and the Premier and Ministers Matt Kean and Rob Stokes have left a trail of broken promises.”
NRG has vowed to continue to collaborate with all like-minded organisations to fight the NSW government to ensure meaningful protection for all NSW koalas and urges readers to email NSW legislators with a message similar to this:
Dear [Legislator’s title and name]: I am confident that I speak for the majority of NSW residents as well as the larger Australian community when I say that your party’s latest koala killing bill is a national and global disgrace. You and your party seem intent on writing off our endangered koalas. If that’s not the case, here’s what you should do to enact the will of the majority of the people of our state and country and protect our koalas at the same time:
Urgently implement all 42 recommendations from the bipartisan inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW. How do you justify enacting only 11 of the 42 recommendations?
Australia is the only developed nation in the Top 10 for land-clearing. End all land-clearing and fragmentation on public land for urban development, agriculture and mining and end private native forestry logging on private land.
Fast track, fund and endorse mandatory Koala Plans of Management (KPOMs) for all NSW Councils.
Reinstate and strengthen the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019.
Create the Great Koala National Park on the NSW Mid-North Coast.
Develop and implement a comprehensive suite of meaningful and enforceable state and commonwealth koala protection and conservation policies.
As the [legislator’s title], you have an obligation to the people of NSW to listen to us, the larger Australian community, and to pay attention to the inquiry and to science. Please stop playing politics with our koalas.
Send your version of this to one or more of these legislators: