MEDIA RELEASE - 7 October 2020
The Berejiklian Government's back-flip over identifying and protecting core Koala habitat from development, clearing and logging is another nail in the coffin of Koalas, according to the North East Forest Alliance.
"The Government's spin that their gutting of 25 years of Koala protection is somehow a good outcome for Koalas is utter nonsense", said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
"With 61% of Koala habitat on private land, making mapped core Koala habitat available for logging and allowing its broadscale clearing without approval, is a major loss of protection and will hasten the looming extinction of Koalas.
"Koala populations had declined by 50% over 20 years on the north coast before the fires, then they lost 30% of their remaining populations in one fire season, and now the Berejiklian Government is reducing Koala protections on private lands, while logging their surviving populations on public lands.
"Despite the warning of the bipartisan Koala Inquiry that Koalas could become extinct by 2050 the Berejiklian Government's perverse response has been to dramatically weaken protection for Koalas.
"The Liberals caved in to National Party bullying, this is not how you double a species population, this is how you make a species extinct." Mr. Pugh said.
The Koala State Environment Planning Policy (SEPP) was introduced by the coalition in 1995, with the principal intent of getting Councils to map core Koala habitat across their Shires.
"Once core Koala habitat was mapped developers were required to avoid, minimise and manage impactson it. In 2007 the Private Native Forestry logging code forbade logging of core Koala habitat. And in 2013 the Local Land Services Act designated core Koala habitat as Category 2 - Sensitive Regulated Land, meaning that broadscale clearing of it required approval.
"Due to problems with restrictive mapping criteria and a political lack of will, since 1995 only 6 councils have mapped a total of 5,000 hectares of core Koala habitat.
"The revamp of the Koala SEPP in 2019 attempted to fix the mapping criteria and make it easier to identify core Koala habitat. Finally there was hope that Council's would start to fulfil their obligations to map core Koala habitat and that Koalas would get the legal protection promised since 1995.
"It was fear of Council's now mapping core Koala habitat that upset the timber industry and land developers, and thereby precipitated the National Party's dummy spit.
"The outcome is that the mapping criteria are being tightened to limit the ability of Councils to map and identify core Koala habitat, and that when identified it will no longer be excluded from broadscale clearing and logging.
"The measely 5,000 ha of core Koala habitat mapped over the past 25 years will be opened up for clearing and logging.
"Contrary to the Government's pretence, outside mapped core Koala habitat there is no meaningful protection for Koalas on private land.
"The bipartisan Koala Inquiry found that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat with the theoretical protections for koalas 'weakened substantially, or indeed non-existent, when practically applied' 1.
"Land clearing is again rampant with 61,800 ha of woody vegetation being cleared each year, and the Government doesn't even know or care why much of this is being done, let alone how much of it is Koala habitat.
- 1. Legislative Council inquiry into Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales (CKPOM = Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management , mapping core Koala habitat, as required by SEPP (note SEPP 44 was actually 1995))
7.49 Upon its introduction, the 1994 SEPP was a key piece in the government's suite of actions to protect koalas. However, the overwhelming evidence presented to the Committee is that whilst the intentions and principles of the 1994 SEPP were admirable, its implementation has fallen well short. Nowhere is more apparent than in the low approval rate of CKPOMs by the department.
7.50 To hear that in the 25 years of the 1994 SEPP's operation, only 6 CKPOMs were approved by the department shocked and angered the committee. The committee empathises with the frustration felt by both local councils who prepared these plans, and residents of these local council areas who sought better protection for koalas. The committee was displeased by the department's failure to provide a clear reason for its low approval rate and inexplicable delays of CKPOMs.
7.91 Based on the evidence received, the committee believes that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat on private land. In fact, the 'number of quite stringent protections for koalas' that government witnesses asserted the PNF Code contains are weakened substantially, or indeed non-existent, when practically applied. The committee finds it unacceptable that land identified as core koala habitat can be cleared because of departmental delays.
7.92 The committee concludes that many of the issues with the Private Native Forestry Codes of Practice stem from their reliance on protections under SEPP 44. Once again, the committee reiterates its disappointment at the systemic failure to approve koala plans of management under SEPP 44. Because of this failure, it is clear that protection of 'core koala habitat' under the Private Native Forestry Codes of Practice is not occurring as the NSW Government claims it is in its submission.