The National Trust (NSW) has announced its official policy on koala conservation in response to calls for urgent action as this native icon of Australian wildlife faces potential extinction due to land clearing practices.
Evidence presented to the NSW Legislative Council Inquiry on 16 August 2019 indicated that the (former) Office of Environment and Heritage identified more than 100,000 hectares of core koala habitat (koala hubs) across New South Wales. The evidence further indicated that, at the present time, only 16 per cent of this land is protected as part of the National Parks estate.
Before native vegetation clearing codes were introduced in March 2018, the (former) Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) warned the NSW Government that less than one per cent of identified koala habitat in New South Wales was protected from clearing under the proposed codes. Since the introduction of the codes, landholders have given notice of 51,000 hectares of clearing and Local Land Services have approved a further 288,000 hectares of clearing for agriculture. This includes thousands of hectares of koala habitat.
What does the National Trust (NSW)’s Koala Conservation Policy say?
The policy calls for urgent action to prevent koala habitat loss and fragmentation from agriculture, forestry, industry and urban development. The National Trust (NSW) wants to see the following changes:
- Immediate prohibition of the clearing of koala habitat, including legislative prohibitions on the destruction and degradation of mature forest and woodlands, and regrowth vegetation.
- Completion of Koala Plans of Management and comprehensive and precise koala habitat modelling state-wide.
- Amendment of relevant legislation to include a broader definition of koala habitat, which includes lands that support feed trees, shelter trees, dispersal corridors and climate refugia.
- Investment in large-scale restoration of koala habitat through: enhanced funding to support restoration and expansion of koala habitat including climate change resistant habitats; to ensure connectivity between existing habitats; reforesting of over-cleared landscapes with a focus on expanding koala habitat corridors and dispersal routes and modelled climate refugia.
The National Trust (NSW) supports preventative measures being taken to protect koala habitats and mitigate further loss from forestry practices through:
- The phasing out of native forest logging on public land and transitioning timber sourcing to plantations established on long cleared land of low biodiversity importance.
- Ensuring private native forestry is subject to assessment and approval before licenses are granted, that logging is genuinely selective and avoids known koala tree species.
- Ending all exemptions on applications, assessment and approval via ‘self-assessable codes’.
The National Trust (NSW) also supports:
- The safeguarding of koala habitat in national parks and other protected areas through
- Establishing the Great Koala National Park on the mid north coast and Georges River Koala National Park in south-west Sydney.
- Establishing new National Parks and other protected areas, including private and indigenous protected areas; to protect and connect koala populations and habitat across New South Wales, strategically choosing areas to also maximise representation of all New South Wales wildlife and native plants and ecosystems.
Debbie Mills, Chief Executive Officer of the National Trust (NSW), is available for interview and comment.
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NOTES TO EDITORS:
About the National Trust (NSW):
The National Trust is Australia’s oldest and largest independent conservation organisation founded in 1945 in New South Wales by Annie Forsyth Wyatt. Collectively the National Trust in Australia owns or manages more than 300 built and natural heritage places (the majority held in perpetuity), is supported by 7,000 volunteers and employs more than 300 people nationwide.
The National Trust (NSW) is committed to engaging the community to celebrate and conserve heritage places and collections through events and education. With the support of our members, volunteers and dedicated staff and partners, we advocate on the protection of historical and naturally significant places and collections to ensure their preservation for future generations.
You can read the National Trust (NSW) Koala Conservation Policy in full online here.