Koalas in Trouble
In the aftermath of the 2019-20 bushfires, the realisation that tens of thousands of Koalas had perished along with many millions of other native animals, resulted in an out-pouring of concern from all quarters.
So strong was the feeling in that moment, that politicians of all (or nearly all) persuasions appeared to unite in support of better protection. An Upper House inquiry into Koalas was already underway before the fires and, in June their report was released, finding numbers were down to 15,000-20,000, with the animal headed for extinction in NSW before 2050.
In response, Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean announced a goal of doubling the numbers of our much-loved Koala by 2050. Things were looking up!
However, these passionate declarations quickly faded with the first attempt to add protection for core Koala habitat. In fact, so incensed was the National Party at the thought of more Koala feed tree species being added to the list for protection, that several parliamentarians, including our own representative, threatened to bring down the government if the changes were implemented. Sadly, the Liberal party folded and, for good measure, added further land clearing allowances to the list of activities that can be carried out by farmers without applying for approval.
It came as quite a shock to many of us, to learn that what we thought were universally loved animals, who pose no threat to anyone, could be referred to by the Nationals’ leader as “tree rats”, effectively relegating them to the level of vermin.
At the Federal level things are no better. Last month Minister Susan Ley approved the clearing of 52 hectares of koala habitat to expand a quarry at Port Stephens, to produce rock for construction in Sydney. The promise of 74 hectares of land to be planted as a habitat corridor “to support local populations”, will take upwards of 30 years to even begin providing habitat, so the Port Stephens’ Koalas, should any survive, have a long wait ahead. Score: rocks 1 – Koalas 0.