OPINION: Premier and Ministers as elusive as our koalas

DEAR News Of The Area,

NOT long ago the NSW Government made the commitment to perhaps the largest regional investment in history into regional conservation and ecotourism in its first budget, with funding of $135m for the proposed Great Koala National Park, a rebuild of Dorrigo Rainforest Centre and construction of a multi-day walking track.

Why the Premier and two of his Ministers were so shy about this initiative in making an announcement during a secretive visit to a picnic area in Bongil Bongil National Park near Coffs Harbour last Friday is bewildering.

No members of the local community, who have worked tirelessly on the Great Koala National Park proposal for the last twelve years, were invited to the celebration of what the Labor Government appears to have taken and turned into an exercise of spin – saying a lot through the media, but doing little in reality.

Firstly, their celebration was in a picnic area in a plantation, admittedly an attractive setting, in the middle of Bongil Bongil National Park, an area protected by a previous Labor Government when serious conservation decisions were important.

The current Government has decreed that no more plantation areas will be included in the proposed Great Koala National Park no matter how many koalas they may contain.

The Premier was keen to point out that the Government has temporarily deferred logging in 106 koala hubs on the North Coast.

Not mentioned was that no recognised koala hubs in plantations were protected and that clear felling of a koala hub, approved by forests Minister Moriarity, who was standing next to him, was occurring as he spoke less than five kilometres from the plantation picnic area they were standing in.

A day earlier in an Estimates Committee hearing in Sydney the Minister for the Environment and her senior staffers appeared to be almost completely ignorant of the spending in recent years by the Environment Department of millions of dollars on the development and application of heat seeking drones as a highly effective tool for surveying for koalas.

The whole Government knows now following the demonstration during the visit the next day to Bongil Bongil.

Not asked or answered were the difficult questions such as why the drones have not been used ever, or in particular during the last nine months by Labor, in pre-logging surveys for koalas.

What appeared to be a key announcement of the visit was the Government’s commitment to another twelve months of “consultation”, through the setting up Community Advisory Panels, before any firm decisions are made on the proposed Great Koala National Park.

A review of the rules for the proposed Community Advisory Panels, as sent to prospective members includes a condition on providing that advice as being ”…when requested…” by the Government.

Off on the wrong foot again!

But thanks again for the drones, the community will latch on to them.

Ashley LOVE,
Coffs Harbour.

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