Koala Inquiry Submissions

Thanks to your support and a brave rouge Liberal, the National’s Koala killing bill was knocked back, and is now being reviewed by a parliamentary committee.

We need to keep the pressure up if you want to see the Koala saved from being made extinct in the wild.  

Last year there was an internal fight within the NSW coalition over protection for Koalas. The National Party briefly threatened to move to destabilise the government unless Koala protections on private lands were dramatically weakened. The Liberals subsequently gutted the 2019 Koala SEPP (State Environment Planning Policy), and gave the Nationals free reign to introduce the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020. The Bill was intended to remove all existing protections for Koalas under vegetation laws, stop Councils from requiring consent for logging, and permit ‘allowable clearing activities’ without approval in environmental zones, littoral rainforest and wetlands.

Liberal Catherine Cusack thought these changes outrageous and, encouraged by thousands of supportive emails, moved to refer the changes to the NSW Legislative Council's Portfolio Committee No. 7 - Planning and Environment (who undertook the Koala inquiry) for review. The ALP, Greens, Animal Justice, and Justin Fields supported this.

The inquiry into the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 is now seeking online submissions in response to specific questions.

The inquiry into the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 is now seeking online submissions in response to specific questions.

Responses are due by Friday 5 February 2021

The submission is to be completed via this online questionnaire.

Below we have provided a summary of NEFA’s responses to their questions to help as a guide.

However, please make any comments in your own words.  Some extra information on the SEPPs can be found here.

Questions 2 & 3: the Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020

Our comment: the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill 2020 sought to:

  • remove existing protections for “core Koala habitat” on private lands (a prohibition on logging and a requirement to obtain consent before undertaking broadscale clearing)
  • stop Councils being able to protect “core Koala habitat” in environmental zones
  • stop Councils being able to require consent for logging in environmental zones or by Tree Preservation Orders
  • permit clearing for ‘allowable activities’ without approval in environmental zones and areas protected by SEPPs (including littoral rainforest and wetlands).
  • extend logging approvals for private lands (and core Koala habitat) from 15 to 30 years, with no reviews.

Question 4: the adequacy and effectiveness of operation of the 1995 and 2019 Koala SEPPs (State Environmental Planning Policy).

Our comment: Both SEPPs intended that Councils with Koalas prepare Koala Plans of Management (KPoMs) that mapped and protected (in environmental zones) “core Koala habitat”. The 1995 Koala SEPP only identified 10 species throughout NSW as Koala Feed Trees, which (along with definitional problems) was used to limit the identification of “core Koala habitat”. Over 26 years only 7 KPoMs that identified core Koala habitat over parts of Council lands were approved by the Department of Planning (DoP), another 5 were approved by Councils but have been blocked for years by the DoP.  The SEPP failed because the Government refused to amend it in light of new information and actively impeded Council’s implementation, and some Councils did not want to protect Koalas. The 2019 SEPP initially improved the definition of “çore Koala habitat”, belatedly increased the list to 123 feed species, but had overly onerous survey requirements. It was never applied.

Question 5: current and potential incentives and challenges facing rural landholders who seek to protect koalas and their habitat on their land

Our comment: Landholders should be offered stewardship payments for carbon storage in trees, with additional payments for the protection of biodiversity, particularly the inclusion of “core Koala habitat” in environment zones.

Questions 6 & 7: adequacy of current mechanisms to assess biodiversity values on private land when land use changes

Our comment: Land clearing has developed into a free-for-all since the rules were changed in 2016. In 2018, clearing of woody vegetation doubled to 60,800 ha and 72% of the 75,000 ha of Rural Regulated Land cleared was described as “unexplained”. They don’t care why it's being cleared, or even if it's Koala habitat. The June 2019 Auditor General report ‘Managing Native Vegetation’ found that “The clearing of native vegetation on rural land is not effectively regulated and managed”, being fraught with problems of weak processes, poor assessments, inadequate protection, limited monitoring and poor enforcement.

Private Native Forestry has the same problems. Logging plans are just a desktop assessment with no environmental surveys. There are requirements to exclude logging from “core Koala habitat”, but only if it was identified before the plan was approved (there are over 2,000 approved logging operations in “core Koala habitat”), and there is little identified anyway. There are also requirements to protect additional feed trees where Koalas are found, but as there is no requirement to look for them, they are rarely found. Last year the Koala Inquiry concluded “Based on the evidence received, the committee believes that the regulatory framework for private native forestry does not protect koala habitat on private land”.

Question 8: the impact of current regulatory regimes on private landholders

Our comment:  Forests are important for generating regional rainfalls, lowering regional temperatures, regulating stream flows, limiting erosion, providing scenic amenity, and maintaining populations of native species. Any significant loss of these benefits through clearing and logging affects the amenity of all landholders in the vicinity. The 2018 Forestry and Wood Products report "Community perceptions of Australia’s forest, wood and paper industries: implications for social license to operate" found that 65% of rural/regional residents across Australia considered native forest logging unacceptable, with just 17% considering it acceptable. Land clearing and logging do not have a social licence, including in regional communities.

We are in climate and extinction emergencies, we need to retain our forests for carbon capture and storage, and as habitat for our dwindling biodiversity, including Koalas. The lax and ineffective regulatory regime for private forests does not meet community expectations and wants.

Question 9: how effective are local governments in managing koala populations and koala plans of management

Our comment: It is variable. Some Councils have succeeded in preparing Koala Plans of Management, although mostly for only parts of their Local Government Area. Others have prepared them (with Government participation) but the Department of Planning refuses to approve them. Most Councils haven’t tried to prepare KPoMs. The costs and Government obstruction have hampered progress. After 26 years the SEPP process has obviously failed, even before the Black Summer fires Koala populations had declined by at least a third. Many thousands more were killed in the fires.  

Question 10: other comments.

Our comment: The need to identify and protect “core Koala habitat”, and habitat linkages, is more important than ever. Droughts and climate heating are compounding and amplifying threats, necessitating the identification and protection of climate refugia. There needs to be a holistic assessment across all tenures, both public and private lands. Where koalas are found they need to be protected and they habitat they are using must be protected.

The NSW Government needs to take on the responsibility of urgently mapping core Koala habitat, habitat linkages, and climate refugia across all tenures. This needs to be overseen by an independent expert committee with expertise in Koala surveys and habitat mapping.

Thank you for taking the time to speak up for koalas. 

We need as many individual submissions as possible so please share far and wide through your friends, families and networks. 


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  • Gavin Bamforth
    commented 2021-01-29 16:56:35 +1100
    What alarmed me was that on a 6500 acre remote property 2 months before the wildfires hit after a long drought it was quiet and animal sightings were low. Now 14 months after the wildfires there has been one wallaby and a couple of possum sightings when there was daily sightings before.