The formal status of Australia’s Koalas was delivered on 30th April by Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke. The long-awaited for declaration announced that Queensland, NSW and the ACT will have their koala’s listed as vulnerable under the national environment protection law. But koalas in South Australia and Victoria are excluded. However, if these Koalas, with their new status, happen to live where the states want to clearfell their forest – that’s OK. Miners and developers will have to seek approval from the Federal government but not so loggers.
So why were Victoria’s Koala’s excluded? The Strzelecki population is a very rare and seriously declining mainland genetic group. Mostly their habitat is on private land that Hancock’s clearfells to feed the Maryvale paper mill. It’s estimated that 10,000 hectares of koala feed trees have been cleared in the past 15 years. Was this a political decision or did Burke’s scientific advisors get it terribly wrong?
Environment groups were hoping for a National listing but instead Minister Burke listed healthier populations under little threat (and therefore not threatening developers and loggers) and ignored koalas in other key areas. We hear this announcement was delayed for 10 weeks so that outstanding approvals in NSW and Qld, particularly for mining, could be approved prior to the listing. Once listed developments that could impact on Koalas would then need to be referred to the Federal Govt.
Land clearing, logging and burning of our forests is the biggest threat to our koalas and this listing does nothing to protect Victorian or South Australian populations.