MEDIA RELEASE: NSW Government response to state koala inquiry is “dangerous lip service”
The NSW Government has sidestepped major koala-saving recommendations put forward by a state inquiry into koala populations.
“The NSW Government has failed to commit to action or resources in crucial areas of koala population and habitat management that have already been proven to need major improvement,” NSW Upper House MP for the Animal Justice Party, Mark Pearson has said.
“Even when it came to the issues that attracted enormous community uproar for the devastating threat they pose to koalas, like the Mount Gilead development and Shenhua coal mine, the NSW Government has essentially said they’re not committing action or funding to help.”
Recommendation 4 of the inquiry stated that the NSW Government should help ensure the protection of koalas and their habitat at Mount Gilead, in Sydney’s south-west.
The NSW Government said they support the move “in principle”.
“Supporting this recommendation ‘in principle’ isn’t enough. Sydney’s last healthy koala colony needs action and funding, not lip service,” Mr Pearson said.
Similarly, Recommendation 9 stated the NSW Government should protect koalas and their habitat before allowing any further development at the Shenhua Watermark site.
The NSW Government “noted” the recommendation but did not commit to any action.
“To ‘note’ our recommendation is as non-committal as you can get – they’ve basically shrugged ‘oh well’, while also claiming the mine poses minimal risk to koalas,” Mr Pearson said.
The NSW Government’s attitude to private use of koala habitat was also highlighted in their response to Recommendation 15, which stated the NSW Government should urgently investigate the utilisation of core koala habitat on private land to replenish lost habitat.
The NSW Government “noted” the recommendation without committing any actions or resources.
“They’ve washed their hands of interfering with private land, and the koalas will suffer,” Mr Pearson said.
“We already know 67 per cent of koalas live on private land, and that many private landholders are allowing logging companies onto their land to cut down ‘a few trees’, only for swathes of precious koala food trees to be cut down.”
The NSW Government also skirted around reassessing their current koala habitat offset scheme, “noting” recommendation 37 without committing to action.
“Offsets are totally misleading and deceptive,” Mr Pearson said.
“Offsets imply balance but the benefit is all in the habitat annihilators’ favour. By ignoring our recommendation to reassess the current offset scheme, the NSW Government is saying today’s practices are good enough, that it’s fine to cut down old-growth koala food trees as long as you plant a tiny tree 100km away, where there may or may not be any koalas.”
“And if existing koala populations can make that journey to the new trees, they shouldn’t have bothered anyway because it’ll be years before those trees are suitable for food or habitat.”
“It’s not good enough, and it’s that kind of thinking that led us to where we are today – facing the very real threat of koalas being extinct in NSW by 2050.”
In 2020, Mr Pearson sat as Deputy Chair of a parliamentary inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW.
The inquiry found koalas could be extinct in NSW before 2050.
The inquiry tabled 42 recommendations including creating new national parks and ruling out logging of trees in old growth forests.