Koalas could be extinct by 2050: Is the new State Govt $193m strategy enough?

Susanna Freymark

An ambitious target to double koala populations by 2050 was announced by the State Government.

The NSW Koala Strategy promises $193.3 million over five years to provide more habitat for koalas, support local community action and improve koala safety and health.

Koalas face a range of threats including habitat loss, climate change, disease, declining genetic diversity, car strikes, bushfire and dog attacks. These mounting pressures and the impacts of the Black Summer bushfires mean that without intervention koalas could be extinct in NSW by 2050.

There are four stages to the government’s strategy. In the first stage, the money will be divided as:

■ $50.3 million will be used to buy 15,000ha of koala habitat on private land.

■ $20.3 million will go to permanently protecting 7000ha of koala habitat on private land through the Biodiversity Conservation Trust’s Conservation Partners Program.

■ $15.5 million will be used to coordinate the restoration of 20,000ha of koala habitat including seed purchases, natural regeneration, direct planting, and working with private sector partners on carbon market projects.

■ $16 million will deliver 5000ha of landscape-scale restoration in partnership with Taronga Conservation Society Australia to establish the largest box-gum woodland restoration and rewilding project ever attempted.

■ $5 million will be invested in koala conservation.

North East Forest Alliance’s Dailan Pugh said the government’s koala strategy would do little to turn around the extinction trajectory of koalas as it does not stopping logging and clearing of koala habitat.

“The strategy proposes nothing to redress the logging of koala habitat on public lands where at best 5-10 small potential koala feed trees per hectare need to be protected in core koala habitat,” Mr Pugh said.

“The most important and extensive koala habitat we know of in NSW is in the proposed Great Koala National Park, encompassing 175,000ha of State Forests south of Grafton and west of Coffs Harbour.

“Similarly on the Richmond River lowlands, the most important and extensive area known is the proposed Sandy Creek Koala Park, encompassing 7,000ha of state forests south of Casino.

These public lands need to be protected from further degradation if we want to recover koala populations, Mr Pugh said.

“There are many other areas of important koala habitat in state forests in need of identification and protection from logging.

“Throwing money at piecemeal protection of private land, while allowing some of the best koala habitat to be cleared and logged will not save koalas.”

Mr Pugh said the strategy to spend $31.5 million to restore and plant new koala habitat could help, but only if clearing and logging of existing koala habitat was stopped.

His answer was to fund local councils to prepare a comprehensive koala plans of management to identify where the core koala habitat and important linkages are, and then to direct funding to best protecting those lands.

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