Area ‘twice the size of ACT’ to be conserved for south-east Qld’s vulnerable koalas

Posted December 08, 2019 16:09:39 There will be no new developments within 570,000 hectares of a ‘koala priority area’ in south-east Queensland, according to a new draft strategy announced by the State Government. Key points:The South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-24 identifies 570,000 hectares of koala habitat for protectionHabitat loss is a major contributor…

Area ‘twice the size of ACT’ to be conserved for south-east Qld’s vulnerable koalas

Posted

December 08, 2019 16:09:39

There will be no new developments within 570,000 hectares of a ‘koala priority area’ in south-east Queensland, according to a new draft strategy announced by the State Government.

Key points:

  • The South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-24 identifies 570,000 hectares of koala habitat for protection
  • Habitat loss is a major contributor to south-east Queensland’s declining koala population
  • Conservationists have “cautiously” welcomed the strategy but urged action must be taken now

Koala populations have decreased by up to 80 per cent over the past 20 years with almost three-quarters of essential habitat destroyed since 1960.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said areas identified as vital for koala conservation will be preserved in what is a ‘once in a generation opportunity’.

“There’ll be allowed some limited clearing for fire breaks, but that’s basically it,” she said.

“This is about the continual survival of a vulnerable species.”

Land scoped for restoration

Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the strategy is the result of years of research.

“We need to create these corridors where koala population can thrive … not in small pockets,” she said.

The strategy has identified 150,700 hectares of public and private land suitable for restoration.

“These pockets of areas are really important areas to sustain, but also they need to find connection to the rest of the corridor,” Ms Enoch said.

“To create those corridors we’ve got koala priority areas, and of course we’ve got areas where we want to see restoration.”

A large proportion of koala habitat is on privately-owned land which is why Ms Enoch said affected landholders should provide feedback.

“We needed to have unified mapping regime,” she said.

Conservationists ‘cautiously optimistic’

One of the priority areas is in East Coomera on the Gold Coast, which is home to one of south-east Queensland’s largest koala populations.

In 2018, a redacted Gold Coast City Council report suggested the population of several hundred koalas would become unviable within 50 years unless action was taken.

Coomera Conservation Group spokesperson Karina Waterman said they had waited four years for a strategy, but her first impression was “cautiously optimistic”.

“We see all these developments happening and they create all these isolated pockets that are not connected,” she said.

“The koalas in those areas, those pockets, they’re under a lot of pressure and they’re the ones we see hit by cars, attacked by dogs. We see disease really flourish.”

Ms Waterman said restoration of the area could even increase Coomera’s koala population.

“Some of the land has been degraded by previous clearing,” she said.

“We have localised populations around the place that are still large enough that they can continue to reproduce — provided we act now.”

‘Not too late to act’

Koala Advisory Council chair Mark Townend said despite the significant decline in koala population over two decades, it was never too late to act.

“People can still live in south-east Queensland, but in context with those koalas,” he said.

“This will also protect all the other wildlife that live under that koala.”

University of Queensland Ecologist Jonathan Rhodes said the exact koala population in south-east Queensland is hard to track but probably exceeds 50,000.

“This strategy is an evidence-based strategy. It’s protecting large, important areas of koala habitat across south-east Queensland and also puts habitat back as well,” he said.

“This will make a big difference in terms of trying to recover koala populations across the region.”

The consultation period for South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-24 ends on January 31, 2020.

Topics:

endangered-and-protected-species,

environment,

human-interest,

animals,

coomera-4209,

upper-coomera-4209,

southport-4215,

maroochydore-4558,

brisbane-4000,

qld,

australia

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