A NSW Upper House committee inquiring into koala populations and habitat in New South Wales today tabled its report, urging the government to act to protect koalas and their habitat or else koalas will be extinct in NSW before 2050.
Deputy Chair of the Committee, the Hon. Mark Pearson MLC, said: “The threat of extinction that koala populations in NSW are facing today is a direct result of our government’s previous inaction on koala habitat protection. If urgent action isn’t taken now, NSW is taking a chainsaw to the last koala tree in the bush.”
“This isn’t speculation. This is fact – the experts have told us the decline in koala numbers in NSW is a result of habitat destruction due to logging, agriculture, and coastal development.”
“Add to this the impact of the recent bushfires, plus climate change causing extended droughts, rising temperatures, and an increased incidence of more bushfires, and you can see why NSW’s koalas are in big trouble,” he added.
The inquiry made 16 findings, including predicting an extinction date of 2050 if urgent action isn’t taken now.
The inquiry also found the current estimate of 36,000 koalas in NSW is outdated and unreliable.
“The fact is we don’t even know how many koalas are left in NSW, and we can’t afford to not do anything,” Mr Pearson said.
The inquiry also found that habitat loss and fragmentation is the biggest threat to koalas in NSW.
In a response to the inquiry’s findings, Mr Pearson called on an immediate cessation of logging of koala food trees in areas of identified koala habitat, as well as a ban on new agriculture or urban development in those areas.
“We know where the last koalas live, and just how vulnerable they are, and yet our government continues to allow new agriculture and development to occur here,” Mr Pearson said.
“This needs to stop now.”
The inquiry tabled 42 recommendations, including creating new national parks and ruling out logging of trees in old growth forests.
After the state’s horrific bushfires, Mr Pearson said the focus of koala protection should now be on protecting and increasing habitat suitable for koalas.
“We have passionate wildlife volunteers across the state who dedicate their lives to rescuing and rehabilitating sick and injured koalas, and they’re telling us already that the rescued koalas have nowhere left to go,” he said.
“The government should be ashamed of the position they’ve left koalas in. What does it say to the world about Australia’s environmental management if we can’t even protect a species as iconic as the koala?”