Chair of the Australian Koala Foundation, Deborah Tabart OAM said if the Government continues to watch habitats go down, then the Koala and particularly some of their very vulnerable populations will be lost to time.
“I am calling on the Minister to use her Ministerial powers under the EPBC Act to protect all Primary and Secondary A habitat throughout the Koala’s entire geographic range where she has the power to do so, and to enact the Koala Protection Act,” she said.
“The Minister must call a halt to the clearing of habitats that sustain Koalas. Every day on Twitter you see the community calling for her to do so and well she can in Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT, but does not have the power in Victoria or South Australia.”
Ms Tabart said she wanted to remind the Environment Minister, the 15th in her 33 year career, that the current ‘Endangered’ listing for the Koala does not protect Koalas in either Victoria nor South Australia and AKF is of the view that it is to protect the plantation logging industry, particularly in Victoria.
She said the current government estimation of Koala populations in Victoria as 450,000 were just not possible.
“There is not enough habitat for that many Koalas. I suspect what has happened is that someone has done a rough calculation like 180,000 of Blue Gum plantations with two koalas per hectare. Truly, if that was the case, Koalas would be hanging out of trams in the Melbourne CBD.
“I do wonder whether the Minister will really want to tell the Australian public that she actually cannot stop a lot of the logging occurring right now, because of the Regional Forest Agreements.
“This is a law that gives certainty to logging contractors and those documents are very powerful – which means logging cannot be stopped.”
Ms Tabart has driven thousands of kilometres, mainly through New South Wales this year looking at habitats, creeks and the rivers that should sustain healthy koala habitats with healthy koala populations.
“To be frank, it is all tragic!” she said.
“It appears that even with a new government, bulldozers can work in our forests and urban landscapes with little done to stop them.
“We have had so many people write to AKF this month seeking support to try and stop clearing and often there is nothing to be done, because it has either been approved in the dim dark past or the damage has already been done.”
The AKF has previously written to the new Environment Minister, offering its expertise, scientific and detailed Koala habitat mapping, population data and carefully considered solutions to save the Koala and its habitat, which they have spent over three decades compiling and she has not replied; instead passing it to the Threatened Species Commissioner to reply with platitudes.