Koalas could be extinct in New South Wales within 30 years unless urgent action is taken, according a report by a parliamentary committee.
The report from an Upper House inquiry into koala populations and their habitats was released today.
Committee Chairwoman Cate Faehrmann said it was estimated at least 5,000 koalas perished in the recent bushfires.
The Greens MP said the findings of the year-long inquiry should be a game changer for the State Government.
“What became crystal clear during this inquiry was that, without urgent government intervention, the koala will become extinct in New South Wales before 2050,” she said.
“At every turn we were handed evidence that showed our current laws are inadequate and facilitating the clearing of core koala habitat.
“The strategies and policies currently in place to protect the koala aren’t working.”
“There must be a significant increase in koala habitat protected from logging, mining, land clearing and urban development,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“The Government needs to incentivise farmers so they’re paid more to protect trees on their land instead of clearing them, and overhaul the failed biodiversity offsetting scheme, which allows core koala habitat to be cleared.”
The inquiry also highlighted the importance of the koala population of south-western Sydney.
It estimated up to 800 koalas between Campbelltown and Wilton in the Wollondilly shire were extremely vulnerable because of urban expansion and roads.
“The committee found that the exclusion fencing on Appin Road is dangerous and needs to be removed or at least needs to include overpasses and underpasses to protect koalas in that area,” Ms Faehrmann said.
It also urged the Government to create a national park to ensure a koala colony at the contentious Figtree Hill development was protected before work went ahead.
“One of [the recommendations] is the creation of the Georges River National Park, which will protect to some extent the significant koala population in south-west Sydney,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“It is a chlamydia-free population and it was increasing in numbers when the committee first met and heard evidence from witnesses in that area.”
Government to “do everything we can”
NSW Environment Minster Matt Kean thanked the committee for its work, gave no indication about what recommendations might be adopted.
“Last season’s bushfires had a devastating impact on our koala population,” Mr Keen said.
“Koalas are an iconic Australian animal recognised the world over and a national treasure which we will do everything we can to protect for future generations.
“That’s why the NSW Government has committed to our $44million koala strategy, the largest financial commitment to protecting koalas in the state’s history,” he said.
“That said, I am looking forward to reviewing the report, and seeing what further can be done to protect this Australian icon.”