Strong urgent action needs to be taken by the Queensland Government to implement the recently released final report of the KEP, available here, according to EDO Qld. The Queensland Government response to the Report is available here.
More work is needed to ensure Queensland's koala population is adequately protected.
The Koala population in Queensland dropped by approximately 80% in the Koala Coast and 54% in the Pine Rivers regions between 1996 and 2014, according to a 2015 report.
While the recommendations are generally a good start, EDO Qld considers that the key recommendation most likely to bring about the urgent action that the Panel state is necessary is in relation to specific changes needed to the Queensland planning law framework, which permits most urban development and habitat clearing.
Development is responsible for significant amounts of clearing of koala habitat in South East Queensland, where the report focuses. Recommendation 2 suggests key changes needed to our planning framework to provide codes and state government assessment triggers specific to development which may impact on koala habitat.
EDO Qld suggests that if the recommendations are to have effect, a State Planning Policy must be introduced to require that the state policy to protect and improve koala habitat is given higher weight in decision making than economic factors or other state policies. If we are to have a hope of saving our koala from extinction, we need to ensure our development assessment laws clearly and strictly prohibit clearing of core koala habitat in South East Queensland. We cannot rely on our offset framework to attempt to ‘make up’ for development impacts to koalas, otherwise there will be no koalas left in the prime koala habitat of the ‘Koala Coast’; is that what we want as a state?
EDO Qld strongly supports recommendations and the government commitment to improve the mapping of koala habitat in South East Queensland. We suggest these efforts be extended throughout Queensland and not be limited to the South East.
The koala was listed as vulnerable to extinction across all of its habitat in Queensland in 2012 under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth) and in 2015 under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld). As a result of a report demonstrating serious declines in koala population densities in South East Queensland,** in 2015 the Queensland Government appointed a ‘Koala Expert Panel’ to review koala conservation measures and provide recommendations for improvements to address this decline.
The final report, provides six recommendations with supporting actions addressed to the Queensland Government, summarised as follows:
- Develop a mechanism for implementing a strategic action plan, with clear, measurable, realistic and time-based targets for koala populations, to ensure coordinated efforts across all levels of government, community, NGOs and industry to preserve koalas;
- Protect koala habitat by simplifying and strengthening the planning framework to provide improved, long-term protection of koala habitat, including on private land through partnerships and incentives;
- Implement strategic and landscape-scale koala habitat restoration through resourcing regulatory, incentive and partnership mechanisms;
- Implement coordinated threat reduction and koala population management through resourcing and implementing a new strategy to complement habitat protection and restoration activities, particularly in identified priority areas;
- Develop and implement a strategy for partnership development and engagement with the broader community; and
- Develop targeted, high quality koala habitat mapping, threat mapping, monitoring and research programs.
The Queensland Government response outlines the next steps the plans to take to implement the Panel’s recommendations, these include:
- commence a review of the components of the planning framework that relate to koala habitat protection;
- continue existing conservation programs, finalise revised koala threats mapping in SEQ and identify priority areas for koala conservation efforts;
- appointing a Koala Advisory Council that includes representatives from relevant state and local governments, community, NGOs and industry
- developing a SEQ Koala Conservation Strategy which establishes targets for koala conservation, maps a network of priority areas for conservation efforts and details actions and a monitoring program that measures progress against targets.
EDO Qld will be continuing our work to ensure that these recommendations from the Koala Expert Panel are implemented by the Queensland Government to the utmost extent to improve the chances of the survival of our koala populations into the future.
*The four members of the Panel included:
- Associate Professor Jonathon Rhodes, University of Queensland (Chair)
- Dr Alistair Melzer,Central Queensland University’s Koala Research Centre
- Mr Al Mucci, Director, Dreamworld Wildlife Foundation
- Ms Antra Hood, Partner, Minter Ellison.