MEDIA RELEASE: “Two death knells for NSW’s koalas”: AJP MP Mark Pearson warns of environmental impact of government koala policy and Santos Narrabri gasfield
Koalas on the north coast and the Pilliga region will face extinction if the NSW Government and Santos get their way, NSW Upper House MP for the Animal Justice Party, Mark Pearson has said.
“In less than a week two death knells have sounded for koalas in NSW,” Mr Pearson said.
On Tuesday night (October 6th), the NSW Government finally reached an agreement on some finer details of its controversial koala policy.
It was agreed that NSW farmers and private native forestry operations will be exempt from the government’s koala policy.
“Farmers and private forestry operators will be able to do whatever they want, and this will be a disaster for koalas, particularly on the north coast,” Mr Pearson said.
“Most koalas between Port Macquarie and Tweed Heads live in trees on private property, and in the already sparse corridors between these fragmented areas of habitat. These koalas will now be at the mercy of landholders who would be within their right to cut down as much koala habitat as they like, just to make a few extra dollars.”
Mr Pearson said he would not support any legislation that threatens koala habitat if it passed through to the Upper House.
“The koalas and our forests deserve better than a government prioritising profit over wildlife,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Pearson warned koalas in the Pilliga rainforest will also have little chance of survival if gas giant Santos is allowed to build its proposed 850-well coal seam gas field in the region.
“The Pilliga koalas are already on the brink of localised extinction, after once being one of the biggest populations in the state,” he said.
“This development will be a disaster for the last koalas in the region, and every other animal who calls the forest home.”
Mr Pearson’s comments come after NSW’s Independent Planning Commission gave “phased approval” for Santos’ $3.6 billion Narrabri project to proceed.
The decision marks the removal of the last major hurdle for the controversial project to proceed.
Mr Pearson said the IPC’s conditions for the project weren’t stringent enough.
“134 apparently stringent conditions mean nothing when the underlying aims of the project fail the public interest test from the outset,” Mr Pearson said.
“There’s no gentle way to kill an ecosystem, and the public won’t stand for it – this project doesn’t have the public’s backing, so it shouldn’t go ahead.”
Mr Pearson’s comments echo his sentiments made in Parliament in June, when the Upper House debated the Petroleum (Onshore) Amendment (Coal Seam Gas Moratorium) Bill 2019.
“The people, animals and environment of New South Wales deserve better than having a polluting fossil-fuel dinosaur of an industry foisted upon our fertile agricultural lands, forests and aquifers,” he said at the time.
Earlier this year, 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.
“We urgently need a state-wide moratorium on logging in all state and private forests where there is known koala habitat,” Mr Pearson said following the tabling of the inquiry’s report.
“The focus should now be on creating and protecting more national and state parks and the vital corridors that connect them.”