The North East Forest Alliance claims that identification of priority Koala habitat for protection undertaken by the Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH), and released under a freedom of information request, proves that the NSW Government's Koala Reserves are a sham. They assert It does however provide a sound scientific basis to progress meaningful protection for Koalas that should not have been ignored.
"The released data confirms that most of the NSW Government's Koala Reserves are a sham. with no scientific basis and often no Koalas. It is disgraceful that the detailed Koala habitat assessments undertaken for the Koala Strategy by the Office of Environment and Heritage were ignored" NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.
"If the Premier has any genuine concerns for the plight of Koalas she must urgently establish a moratorium from logging over the 20,000 ha of clusters of resident Koala populations, along with appropriate buffers, identified on State Forests until further assessments are undertaken to identify boundaries of koala usage and determine meaningful climate-resilient koala reserves",
"Now that it has been exposed the NSW Government has no excuse to go on ignoring its own expert advice" Mr Pugh said.
The OEH documents and data were released under a freedom of information request by the National Parks Association and have been subject to in depth analysis by NEFA.
As their contribution to the NSW Koala Strategy OEH applied the available data to identify and map 48 Areas of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS) and the distribution of habitat and threats within each of them.
This has been supplemented by analyses of Koala records to define 101,821 ha of clusters of resident populations known as Koala Hubs that have been identified for protection.
Most of the Koala Hubs occur on private lands, though 19,755 ha occurs on State Forests, with 15,522 ha in north east NSW.
"As the identified Koala Hubs are the most important areas of Koala habitat currently known for protection they should have been the basis for the 24,538 hectares of State forest that the Government announced will be set aside for koalas in their 12 Koala Reserves.
"Instead just 3 of the reserves contain a measly 181 hectares of Koala Hubs. Four of the Government's reserves don't even occur in OEH's Areas of Regional Koala Significance, and 2 are only partially within them.
"The OEH data confirms NEFA's previous assessment that 9 of the Government's Koala Reserves are a sham, and even the 3 with some high quality habitat should have been extended to better encompass identified high quality habitat.
"Conversely, with 8,697 ha (44%) of NSW's Koala Hubs on State Forests in 2 ARKS, the OEH data strongly supports the exceptional importance of the National Parks Association's proposed Great Koala National Park for Koala conservation in NSW. It similarly supports many of their other park proposals, including NEFA's Sandy Creek National Park proposal.
"NEFA calls upon the NSW government to immediately place all koala hubs on State forests, along with buffers of a minimum of 1km, under a moratorium from logging until further assessments are undertaken to identify boundaries of koala usage and determine meaningful and climate-resilient koala reserves.
"Given the identified importance of riparian vegetation in maintaining koala populations during droughts the government should abandon its intention to reduce headwater stream buffers via the new logging laws, Mr. Pugh said.
NEFA's report 'OEH KOALA HABITAT ASSESSMENTS ARE A START FOR MEANINGFUL KOALA CONSERVATION' is available at https://www.nefa.org.au/koalas