400,000 hectares of Queensland koala habitat could be bulldozed if land clearing controls not restored



Posted on 14 March 2016
Koala Arboreal marsupial (Phascolarctos cinereus), feeds on Eucalptus leaves Australia.
Koala Arboreal marsupial (Phascolarctos cinereus), feeds on Eucalptus leaves Australia.
© Martin Harvey / WWF
More than 400,000 hectares of Queensland’s koala habitat could be destroyed at any time following the weakening of land clearing controls by the previous State Government, according to a new analysis by WWF-Australia.
 
WWF scientist Dr Martin Taylor recently revealed that more than 40,000 hectares of high value koala habitat was bulldozed in just two years following the reduction in land clearing regulation and enforcement by the previous government.
 
Additional analysis by Dr Taylor has quantified the amount of threatened species habitat that has the green light to be destroyed due to land clearing exemptions introduced by the previous Queensland Government.
 
For koalas it is 403,677 hectares, the equivalent of nearly ten million house blocks, and for threatened species overall, more than 800,000 hectares has been thrown open to bulldozers, the equivalent of 18 million house blocks.
 
Dr Taylor has produced a map of the de-protected koala habitat (available here) and a map of the de-protected threatened species habitat (available here). 
 
“Exemption from the law means that bulldozers can now destroy vast areas of high conservation value bushland at any time with no questions asked, no permit required,” said Dr Taylor.
 
“It’s much worse than we anticipated and if this land is cleared it will condemn thousands of plants and animals to death and increase extinction risk for at least 323 species,” he said.
 
Dr Taylor said exemptions examined were of three types:  approvals to clear mature bushland for so-called “high value” agriculture, exemption of clearing of high value regrowth forests on freehold land following changes to the law in 2013, and the remapping of mature bushland as exempt through property level maps, with no oversight by biodiversity experts.  Some key examples of species affected are:
  • The buff-breasted button quail, a bird only found on Cape York, and so rare it has never been photographed, has had 16,000 hectares of habitat given over to the bulldozers, primarily for high value agriculture on just one property. 
  • The symbol of north Queensland, the cassowary had 17,000 hectares of habitat opened to clearing, primarily due to the exemption of high value regrowth. 
  • The endangered Kuranda tree frog had protection for 5% of its 13,300 hectares of habitat written off in one fell swoop primarily due to the same exemption. 
  • Southeast Queensland’s critically endangered Ormeau bottle tree had 21% of its remaining 473 hectares of habitat opened to bulldozers, again through the same exemption. 

A full list of affected species, and a detailed methodology for the figures, is available here.
 
“It’s imperative the Queensland Parliament restores land clearing controls before these threatened species habitats are destroyed,” Dr Taylor said.
 
“The purpose of the Vegetation Management Act – to conserve biodiversity – is simply no longer being met,” he said.

WWF-Australia Media Contact: Mark Symons, Senior Media Officer, 0400 985 571


To take action on this important issue visit: wwf.org.au/landclearing
Koala Arboreal marsupial (Phascolarctos cinereus), feeds on Eucalptus leaves Australia.
Koala Arboreal marsupial (Phascolarctos cinereus), feeds on Eucalptus leaves Australia.
© Martin Harvey / WWF Enlarge