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We have long recognised that our iconic Koalas are in danger of extinction on the far north coast of NSW and, despite having laws in place for over 20 years to redress their decline, our Governments collude to hasten it. Governments of all persuasions have proven that they are willing to have rules and regulations to protect Koala habitat as long as they are ineffective.
Stable breeding aggregations of Koalas are comprised of individuals with overlapping home ranges of around 5 ha. Koalas show strong fidelity for their home ranges throughout their lives, which may be 8-10 years. The size and viability of a Koala’s home range is dependent on the availability of resources within it.
On the north coast Koalas preferentially select larger (over 30cm diameter) individuals of Tallowwood, Grey Gum, Grey Box, Forest Red Gum and Swamp Mahogany for feeding, though also utilise other species. These are the same trees targeted by the loggers.
For Koalas the logging codes variously require the retention of 5 to15 feed trees per hectare (for public and private lands respectively) when Koalas are found in preferred forest types. They also require the establishment of 20 metre exclusion areas around Koala high use trees if they are found. Koala high use trees are taken to be those with at least 20 Koala scats (faecal pellets) beneath them. It is this later requirement that has the theoretical potential to provide protection for parts of core Koala breeding habitat.
For public lands the Forestry Corporation are required to thoroughly search for Koala scats ahead of logging to identify and protect Koala High Use Areas (HUAs). It wasn’t until NEFA caught the Forestry Corporation logging Koala HUAs in Royal Camp State Forest (near Casino) in 2012 that their ongoing refusal to properly search for Koala scats and identify Koala HUA’s was publicly exposed after 15 years of avoiding this requirement (see Doing Surveys).
For private lands loggers are required to protect Koala high use trees, though are not required to look for them (or any threatened species) and therefore they are not usually protected. This wasn’t publicly exposed until the local community and NEFA intervened in 2013 to identify Koala high use trees on a private property being logged by the Forestry Corporation at Whian Whian (north of Lismore). Where the Forestry Corporation had identified 2 such trees, the community identified 26 along with core Koala breeding habitat. Undaunted the Forestry Corporation continued to road and log the core habitat.
It is evident that the Forestry Corporation can not be trusted to provide the required protection for core Koala habitat and have instead been routinely logging it. In order to provide Koalas with the protection they need the National Parks Association have recently proposed the Great Koala National Park and a series of smaller Koala Parks throughout north east NSW. (see A Blueprint for a Comprehensive Reserve System for Koalas on the North Coast of NSW).