Penny Sharpe a hypocrite for not protecting Koalas

MEDIA RELEASE 11 February 2024

NEFA has called NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe a hypocrite for saying she wants to protect Koalas and save them from extinction, while at the same time refusing to do anything to stop the Forestry Corporation logging Nationally Important Koala Areas in Braemar and Myrtle State Forests south of Casino, which will compound the severe impacts of the 2019-20 bushfires and threatens the extinction of this population.   

Satellite images show logging is progressing rapidly in Braemar and Myrtle State Forests, with over 140ha in Myrtle (14% of the loggable area) and 70ha (37% of the loggable area) in Braemar logged.

This Koala population was devastated in the 2019-20 bushfires, with over 70% of Koalas killed, though is recovering with most koala habitat now being utilised. Logging is now compounding impacts on the recovering Koalas and threatening the extinction of this population, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh said.

“NEFA have written to Penny Sharpe on numerous occasions pleading with her to intervene to save these Koalas, providing her with numerous reports and survey results that clearly demonstrate the exceptional importance of these forests for Koalas, yet she refuses to intervene. 

This Koala survived the bushfires, now its home is being logged

“If Penny Sharpe refuses to implement her own 2020 recommendation to protect Koala habitat, the least she can do is to heed the expert advice she has been provided with, and stop the logging of all Koala feed trees over 30cm diameter in occupied habitat.

NEFA commissioned Koala expert Dr. Steve Phillips to undertake independent surveys for Koalas in Myrtle and Braemar State Forests last year. He found that despite the loss of 71% of Koalas in the 2019/20 fires, 67% of patches of Koala habitat in both forests are now occupied by Koalas.

In his expert report (1) for NEFA’s recent court case Dr Phillips’ opinion was that the proposed logging “will exacerbate koala population decline in these areas and, in the worst case scenario, could potentially lead to the extinction of local koala populations”.

“To avoid the worse, Dr Phillips recommended further surveys to identify the full extent of occupied Koala habitat and the retention of all koala browse trees over 30cm diameter within occupied habitat” Mr. Pugh said

NEFA have assessed that the intent is to log 77-87% of preferred koala browse trees over 30cm diameter. The loss of most feed trees will devastate the recovering population.

“It is the height of hypocrisy that Penny Sharpe won’t even implement her own recommendations from the 2020 Koala inquiry, made after listening to extensive evidence from NEFA about the impacts of the 2019-20 fires on the populations of Koalas in Myrtle and Braemar, and experts about logging more generally, leading to her committee finding that logging is having cumulative impacts on koalas by reducing mature and larger trees preferred by Koalas and that the current logging “regulations are insufficient”, leading to the recommendation that Koala habitat on State Forests be identified and protected from logging (2).

“Penny Sharpe is knowingly facilitating the extinction of Koalas” Mr. Pugh said

The Forestry Corporation are required to undertake Broad Area Habitat Searches ahead of logging where they are legally required to identify Koalas, dens and nests of a variety of threatened species, including Southern Greater Glider, and threatened plants.

“Despite the abundant Koalas and other 23 threatened species known to occur in these compartments, Bionet records show the Forestry Corporation have not identified a single record of a Koala, or any threatened species, in their Broad Area Habitat Searches. It is clear that they are not looking for any of them and the EPA won’t make them” Mr. Pugh said.


(1) Extracts from affidavit of Dr. Stephen Phillips, 31 July 2023, in NEFA vs Forestry Corporation,

In my opinion, the logging of koala browse trees from within areas severely impacted by the 2019-20 bushfire events, such as Myrtle and Braemar State Forests, will exacerbate koala population decline in these areas and, in the worst case scenario, could potentially lead to the extinction of local koala populations….

In 2021, I was the senior author on a peer-reviewed publication which estimated that, when standardised against pre-fire occupancy levels, there was an average reduction of approximately 71% in koala activity in areas such as Myrtle and Braemar State Forests that were affected by the 2019-20 bushfires. Some of the pre- and post- fire data included in the publication was collected from Braemar State Forest. …

During [field surveys in June and July 2023] we recorded evidence of active habitat utilisation by koalas at 4 of 5 field sites in the Myrtle State Forest, and at 4 of 6 field sites in the Braemar State Forest. These results confirm that there are koalas present within the area proposed for logging. …

Following my review of the Harvest and Haul Plans (HHPs) for Braemar and Myrtle State Forests, it is my opinion that there is a serious risk that no suitable habitat will be retained for surviving koala populations in these areas under the CIFOA prescriptions. …

In areas where there are koalas, my research data … confirms 100% of the koala browse feed trees are being utilised at the local population level by individual koalas comprising the local population. This means that any reduction in koala browse trees will impact the ability for koala populations to meet their nutritional needs, with possibly dire consequences for individuals and populations including loss of fitness, increased susceptibility to disease and nutritional stress and reduction in reproductive output….

In my opinion, to assist with the recovery of the koalas in the local landscape (which was severely impacted by the 2019-20 bushfires), a precautionary approach should be adopted and no koala browse trees >30cm DBH should be logged from areas that can be demonstrated to be supporting koala activity so as to improve the likelihood of the survival of the species in the local landscape and to prevent extinction of the local koala population. …

(2)  Extracts from NSW Legislative Council inquiry Koala populations and habitat in New South Wales, June 2020  

2.61 The committee accepts that, whilst koalas can shelter in and obtain feed from younger trees, evidence indicates that higher koala activity correlates with more mature and larger trees. The committee is concerned that increased logging activity in areas of quality koala habitat has reduced the availability of such trees for koalas. The committee believes that over many years, logging in public native forests in New South Wales has had cumulative impacts on koalas because it has reduced the maturity, size and availability of preferred feed and roost trees.

2.101 The committee understands that the recent changes to the Coastal IFOA agreements relating to tree retention in koala habitat were contentious, even amongst the NSW Government's agencies. The committee is of the opinion that the current regulations are insufficient to conserve large intact areas of koala habitat and corridors.

2.103 In light of the above evidence and the ongoing recovery efforts in burnt forests, the committee acknowledges that the forests are essential habitats for not just koalas, but other threatened species, and need to be monitored for recovery before any further decisions about salvage logging are made. The committee thus recommends that the Government consider the impacts of logging in all public native (non-plantation) forests in the context of enabling koala habitat to be first identified and then protected by a combination of transferring land to national parks or inclusion in Forest Management Zone 2 – Special Management, where appropriate.

2.130 Habitat is integral to the survival of the koala in New South Wales. The committee believes that unless the Government acts urgently to prevent the further loss of any more koala habitat, the future of the State's wild koalas cannot be guaranteed.

5.19 In the face of such loss to koala habitat and koalas, the committee believes that the protection of remaining koala habitat is crucial. The committee notes that it has received a significant amount of evidence regarding that koala are increasingly located on private land. Similarly, the levels of koala habitat lost in State forests cannot be ignored. For this reason, the committee recommends that the NSW Government urgently investigate the utilisation of koala habitat on private land and State forests to replenish habitat lost during the bushfires.

9.38 As raised multiple times in the earlier chapters, the Government needs to prioritise the preservation of habitat to prevent the extinction of those remaining koalas, which have become more at risk after the bushfires. The committee believes that by creating protected areas of koala habitat in national parks, it will give koala populations the best chance to thrive and increase in numbers.

Recommendation 7                                                    45

That the NSW Government consider the impacts of logging in all public native (non-plantation) forests in the context of enabling koala habitat to be identified and protected by a combination of transferring land to national parks or inclusion in Forest Management Zone 2, where appropriate.

Recommendation 15                                                                        81

That the NSW Government urgently investigate the utilisation of core koala habitat on private land and in State forests to replenish koala habitat lost in the bushfires.

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