Premier Annastacia Palaszczukz announces the new Koala protection strategy with Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary specialist Sarah Eccleston and koalas Khaleesi and Eve. Photo: Mike Batterham
Premier Annastacia Palaszczukz announces the new Koala protection strategy with Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary specialist Sarah Eccleston and koalas Khaleesi and Eve. Photo: Mike Batterham

Rescue groups criticise koala protection strategy

KOALA rescue groups say the state government's "once in a generation" plan to safeguard the survival of koala populations and habitat in Queensland is not enough.

The draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-24 introduces new mapping of koala habitat across the southeast, identifying Koala Priority Areas where conservation programs would have the highest likelihood of success.

It also proposes new ways to protect koalas through "strategic co-ordination, habitat restoration, threat mitigation and community action".

The plan has been met with a mixed reaction by local koala rescue groups with Koala Action president Vanda Grabowski saying it may not be enough.

"Members applaud the commitment to undertake rehabilitation to restore 1000ha of koala habitat in SEQ by 2024, but members believe this is too little and too late," she said.

"To date nothing in the draft strategy has provided any detail as far as the implementation process is concerned.

"Stakeholders also want a firm action-planned commitment to introduce stronger laws to better protect koala habitat in SEQ.

"The strategy has to incorporate more than tokenistic gestures and feel good statements, it must incorporate direct action sooner rather than later."

About a year ago, the government created the Koala Advisory Council which was tasked with creating the draft strategy based on recommendations from the previously released Koala Expert Panel report.

The council's members included RSPCA Queensland CEO Mark Townend, Wilderness Society's Gemma Plesman, University of Queensland associate professor Jonathan Rhodes, Kirsty Chessher-Brown from the UDIA and Mosaic Property Group's Marina Vit.

Pine Rivers Koala Care president Chris Thompson said the new mapping did not pick up localised pockets of high value habitat.

"Some of our members have spent 30 years restoring habitat - those areas must be recognised as being of strategic local significance," he said.

"Threats to koalas in MBRC areas continue to put koalas and other wildlife in conflict with cars, dogs and developers.

"Our members fear the threats are not being addressed while bureaucrats strategise.

"Our rescue and carer volunteers live with the trauma that results from the conflict between Koalas, wildlife and people who love to live in the same areas.

"The draft strategy only mentions 10 priority sites in all of South East Queensland - clearly there are more than 10 areas in SEQ that require immediate action."

Ms Grabowski, also a member of Moreton Bay Koala Rescue and Queensland Koala Crusaders, said the strategy would fail to deliver on the Koala Expert Panel's "clear recommendations" without stronger laws being introduced.

She said new planning laws must prohibit further clearing of core koala habitat (except for safety or essential services); result in a net gain in habitat across the region; and overhaul the ineffective "environmental offsets" laws used to justify clearing of koala habitat.

The draft strategy was developed in consultation with conservation, building and development representatives, First Nations representatives, and state and local government.

The full report is available on the Department of Environment's website.

Residents can provide feedback on the proposed mapping by December 22, and the draft strategy by January 31, 2020.

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