Back Past Square One For Koalas As Rural Land Excluded From SEPP

 

KOALAS are moving closer to extinction in New South Wales, according to conservationists, because of the concessions to farmers resulting from the recent agreement between the NSW Liberals and Nationals.

According to the Greens, the new Koala SEPP just released by the Government is actually a win for the logging industry and a huge loss in the fight to save koalas from extinction in NSW.

After tension about koala protection threatened to disrupt the coalition parties, last year, the Liberals have now struck a deal with the Nationals which will see rural land removed from the new State Environmental Planning Policies (SEPP) and come under a new code that is yet to be developed.

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Cate Faehrmann, Greens MP and Spokesperson for the environment, said, “The dummy spit by the National Party over the new Koala SEPP was never about farmers”.

She continued, “It was always about appeasing the logging industry’s demands to be able to log koala habitat on private land”.

Ms. Faehrmann said that almost two thirds of the NSW koala population lives on private land.

She said, “The key threat facing koalas is the ongoing loss of their habitat, yet this new SEPP won’t stop this loss”.

A 2018 report by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment found that land clearing in NSW had increased by almost 40% in the previous eight years, with three-quarters of this clearing ‘unexplained’.

Almost 40% of the land cleared was for forestry.

According to Ms. Faehrmann, “The forestry industry has won out in its quest to continue logging koala habitat on private land”.

She said that the government’s promises to the public that it will double koala numbers by 2050 are hollow, because it will not confront the logging industry.

The Mayor of Bellingen Shire, Cr. Dominic King told News Of The Area that there was supposed to be another inquiry into koala protection at the end of the month, so the agreement was an unpleasant surprise.

His view ac cords with Ms. Faehrmann’s in that the agreement is not about protecting koalas but about farmers’ votes and logging quotas for large companies.

However, he suggests that farmers are probably more concerned with issues such as water and coal seam gas.

Cr. King said, “If forestry was sustainable then there would be no need to go into previously untouched areas”.

Conservationists say that, under the proposed guidelines, the landholder makes the assessment about whether, or not, endangered species are present and there is no follow up.

Cr. King said that the EPA is stretched just monitoring state forests and other environmental issues.

He said, “Regulations should be followed, but there’s nobody to check that large trees are left or that trees with hollows are untouched.”

He suggested that, at the very least, there should be dual consent between state and local government that involves assessments by qualified ecologists.

Ms. Faehrmann supports this view, questioning why several local government areas, including Coffs Harbour and southwards, have not had their draft Koala Plans of Management approved.

She said, “This is also a huge kick in the guts for local councils with a lot of their powers to protect koala habitat taken away from them.

“Given their record to date, the Government cannot be trusted to strengthen the codes for land clearing and logging on private land in a way which genuinely protects koalas,” she said.

Ms. Faehrmann told News Of The Area, “The government needs to come up with a way of protecting koalas on private land with cooperation of farmers”.

At the moment, farmers can get more money from trees being cut down to leave their properties than they do from leaving the trees in the ground. We need to be able to place a value on koalas and other threatened species.

According to Ms. Faehrmann, if koalas are not protected on private land there won’t be big enough populations in National Parks to support tourism.

Also, the agreements signed with logging companies were unsustainable from the beginning, which is putting pressure on the environment, and these companies have been intensely lobbying to relax environmental regulations on private land.

Proponents of the Great Koala National Park are holding a ‘Save Our Koalas’ day of action at 10:30am, this Sunday, the 21st of March at Lavenders Bridge, Bellingen.

Supporters are asked to BYO breakfast, coffee, a rug to sit on and some signs to show their support.

Ms. Faehrmann said, “The situation is serious and we need to get a balance between the ability of farmers to make a living and the needs of the environment.

She said, “No-one wants to see a destroyed environment”.

 

By Andrew VIVIAN

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