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Representatives from numerous environmental conservation groups held a peaceful protest outside the Grafton office of Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis on November 6. Image: Lynne Mowbray.

Protestors push to put koalas first

Emma Pritchard

While the NSW Nationals have made their position clear regarding the NSW Government’s Koala Habitat Protection State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), members of the community gathered outside the Grafton office of Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis on November 6 to do the same.
Representatives from several environmental conservation groups including North East Forest Alliance (NEFA), coordinated a peaceful protest to urge MPs to take action against new laws and changes to the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill, which they referred to as the koala killer bill, alleging it could set koala protection back years, resulting in the extinction of the presently endangered species within the next 30 years.
Sean O’Shannessy, coordinator from NEFA said it was “vitally important to take action now” to protect koalas from extinction.
“The Berejiklian Government recently rammed a new LLS Bill through the Lower House within the last two weeks and it was their response to the attack on the Coalition from John Barilaro and The Nationals,” he said.
“What they call a compromise is a 25-year step backwards for protection of koalas across the state.
“It means that in local council areas where a koala plan of management has been implemented, most of them are being wiped and there will be no more koala plans of management to be allowed across the state.”
Mr O’Shannessy also said the koala SEPP has been effectively guttered so that all of the protections which might have accrued against Private Native Forestry (PNF) where they had to do some cursory examination of whether there was koalas present or not, the koalas have been stripped of all of their protections on all private lands effectively across the state.
“Local councils will no longer be able to control activities which will impact on koalas,” he added.
In a media release, NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh described the Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill as representing the Liberal Party’s total capitulation to the loggers and developers at the behest of the National Party.
He said the proposed changes clearly intended to make the koala SEPP ineffective, adding it is “a despicable act from a Government hell-bent on halving our rapidly diminishing populations of koalas, not doubling them.”
While Mr Gulaptis was not present at his Grafton office during the protest last week, he acknowledged the representatives who gathered, adding “we can see how well our democracy works when it’s a peaceful protest.”
Mr Gulaptis stood firm in his opinion regarding the SEPP and Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill adding “the bill won’t harm koalas.”
“It’s about protecting the workers in the timber industry, farmers and producers,” he said.
“There are measures and protocols in place in the timber industry to protect koalas.
“It’s got nothing to do with destroying koalas at all.
“I love koalas as much as anyone.”

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