SEPP bad for Koalas

New Koala SEPP a boon for developers and loss for Koalas

MEDIA RELEASE - 22 December 2019

NSW Government's new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for Koala Habitat Protection makes it easier for developers, without providing Koalas with the long-overdue and urgent protection they desperately need, according to the North East Forest Alliance.

The new SEPP relies upon mapping of 'highly suitable koala habitat', on the north coast 29% of this has been burnt this year making it urgent that the Government protect what's left from clearing and logging while we wait for the decades it will take to map and protect core Koala habitat as required by the SEPP, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh

Survivor of Braemar fires.

The NSW Government have replaced the 1995 State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 44 (Koala Habitat Protection) with the new SEPP (Koala Habitat Protection) 2019.

"The most substantive change is to exempt developers from having to undertake Koala surveys to identify core Koala habitat and prepare site specific Koala Plans of Management, instead only requiring them to apply as yet unpublished guidelines.

"For the past 24 years a succession of NSW Governments have failed to facilitate the SEPP 44 requirements for Councils to prepare Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management that map core Koala habitat for protection, and this new SEPP promises more of the same.

"Only 6 Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management have been approved over 24 years, and only 3 of these map core Koala habitat.

"Another 8 are being sat upon by Government. Both Byron and Tweed Councils prepared draft Koala Plans of Management for their coastal areas which were submitted in 2015, yet the Government has refused to ratify them.

"Since SEPP 44 was introduced north coast Koalas were estimated to have declined by 50% to just 8,400 individuals by 2012. The SEPP has been a sham used to cover up Government inaction.  More of the same will just mean the continuing decline of Koalas.

"The Government has released mapping which identifies 'highly suitable koala habitat ... likely to be occupied by koalas'. The mapping for the north coast (north of Port Stephens) identifies over a million hectares across all tenures of highly suitable koala habitat.

"Already this year 312,000 ha (29%) of this mapped habitat has been burnt, including some of our most important populations. Thousands of Koalas have been killed.

"If this Government is serious about saving NSW's Koalas from extinction they must immediately place a moratorium on clearing and logging of all the mapped highly suitable koala habitat while they fast track Koala Plans of Management to identify core Koala habitat.

"The future of the 215,000 ha of mapped highly suitable koala habitat on State Forests on the north coast is just as dire. Over the past 15 years more than 82,000 hectares of this highly suitable Koala habitat has been logged, and this year over 94,000 hectares burnt.

"Last year the Government abandoned the requirement for pre-logging surveys to identify and protect Koala High Use Areas on State Forests.

"Rather than the SEPP exempting the Forestry Corporation from the requirement to prepare Koala Plans of Management, the Government needs to identify and protect core Koala habitat on public lands to set an example.

"This Government is winding back protection for Koalas when it needs to be urgently improved. With thousands of Koalas being killed in already depleted populations, remaining core Koala habitat desperately needs to be identified and protected.

"At the very least the NSW Government needs to immediately place a moratorium over the clearing and logging of their mapped 'highly suitable koala habitat' across all tenures until there has been a comprehensive assessment of fire and drought impacts on this iconic Australian species", Mr. Pugh said.

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