A new report has found that the New South Wales government’s Koala Strategy is “ineffective, inadequate and expensive” and ignores the main cause of koala deaths – the destruction of habitat.
The joint report by WWF-Australia, the National Parks Association of NSW and the North East Forest Alliance has found numerous failings in the Government’s $45-million strategy, which is aimed at halting the unprecedented decline in koalas in NSW.
The Strategy will not prevent the projected extinction of koalas, which WWF has found could be as early as 2050.
Of 11 recommendations made by the NSW Chief Scientist to save koalas, the report finds that only two were fully addressed. Five recommendations were partially addressed, two were poorly addressed, and two were not addressed.
“The primary failing of the NSW Koala Strategy is that it ignores changes to legislation in 2017 that made it legal to clear 99% of the state’s koala habitat,” said the report’s lead author, WWF-Australia conservationist Dr Stuart Blanch.
The NSW Government has allocated $20 million to buy up 5,000 hectares of koala habitat, but is simultaneously enabling the bulldozing of seven million hectares of koala habitat across the state.
“Improving legislation to protect mature forests and woodlands is the cheapest and most effective way to immediately halt the unprecedented decline of koalas,” Dr Blanch said.
“Some elements of the NSW Koala Strategy appear to be misleading. For example, the Strategy claims to create 12 ‘new reserves’ for koalas, but 10 of these are already protected state forest.”
The strategy ignores recommendations by koala experts to establish the 175,000-hectare Great Koala National Park on the NSW mid north coast, new national parks for the last remaining koala populations in southwest and western Sydney, or new national parks in other areas of known koala significance.
There are estimated to be less than 20,000 koalas in NSW, down from the estimated millions two hundred years ago. NSW has lost 1 in 4 koalas in the last 20 years, primarily due to habitat loss.