New Laws Failing the Koalas of Port Stephens

The Berejiklian Government’s new ‘biodiversity conservation’ laws are failing endangered species across NSW, with the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee now unable to list the endangered Port Stephens koala population – even though the Committee previously recommended the listing.

The decision by the Committee to reject the listing of the koala colony around Port Stephens as endangered, states that it is unable to provide state-based protection to this population because the Government’s new laws have stripped its power to classify populations as endangered.

Last year, the Committee declared that these koalas face ‘a very high risk of extinction…in the near future.’

While listing of endangered populations used to provide triggers for extra investment and a recovery plan for the species in these areas, it is now no longer possible as a result of the Government’s changes.

Last year the Committee began the preliminary process of listing the Port Stephens koalas, and found that these koalas are endangered and declining, including that: - Habitat is now highly fragmented due to clearing for agriculture, housing, sand mining and roads - New developments proposed in the area would take in more than 1,200 ha of koala habitat - The Tomaree koala population will decline to extinction within a decade at the current mortality rate - Populations have recently been lost from localities such as Raymond Terrace and Karuah - The total number of koala deaths from vehicle strike is likely to be even larger than that reported - Continuing decline is anticipated as only 36% of core koala habitat is found within reserved lands

Now that the Committee can no longer make the listing, all koala populations in NSW are simply classified as ‘vulnerable’ at the lower end of the scale, even where koalas are clearly on the brink of disappearing.

This new koala crisis comes on top of the new biodiversity laws allowing up to 99% of koala habitat to be logged on private land; the Government’s sell-off of core koala habitat at the Mambo Wetlands to a developer and failure to buy it back; and the Department of Planning approving a sand mine in recognised koala habitat in Williamtown.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe

“Labor will restore the ability to examine and classify the full range of protections for local populations because the Berejiklian Government’s new laws are clearly failing endangered wildlife across NSW.

“Generations of Port Stephens locals have revered these koalas, and the Government should be doing everything in its power to protect them for future generations, rather than turning their backs on them.”

Quotes attributable to Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington

“How soon is the day we start telling our children: did you know we used to have koalas right here in Port Stephens?

“I urge the Government to amend these laws, support the listing, and get on with targeted action to protect our iconic koalas in and around Port Stephens before it is too late.

"These findings show just how irresponsible it was for the Berejiklian Government to sell off core koala habitat at the Mambo Wetlands, and I remain determined to see the land returned to public ownership.”

This item was distributed as a media release on Monday 27 August 2018.


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