New research reveals the federal government has approved the clearing of more than 25,000 hectares – the equivalent of 500,000 average house blocks – of koala habitat since the species was declared ‘vulnerable’ to extinction ten years ago.
The research by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) shows 61% of the koala habitat approved to be cleared under the federal environment law was for mining, 12% was for land transport and 11% was for residential housing projects.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. The actual habitat cleared is many times greater as clearing for agriculture is rarely assessed under the national environment law and native forest logging is exempt from these laws altogether.
Previous research by ACF showed the size of koala habitat actually cleared in a five-year period was almost 95% greater than the size that was approved.
“The federal government has just promised $50 million for koalas, but at the same time it continues to knowingly approve the clearing of koala habitat for mines, roads and housing estates,” said ACF’s Nature Campaign Manager Basha Stasak.
“The amount of koala habitat approved for clearing has increased every year since 2012.
“The first thing federal and state governments should do for koalas is immediately stop approving the destruction of their homes for commercial projects.
“Australia’s national environment laws are so weak they have done little to stem the ongoing destruction of koala habitat – especially in Queensland and NSW – since the species was declared vulnerable a decade ago.
“Koalas are in strife. An assessment has been conducted to determine whether the species’ conservation status should be changed from vulnerable to endangered, but that assessment has not been released and a national recovery plan for the species is long overdue.
“We call on Minister Ley to immediately release this assessment and act of its findings.
“If we want our grandchildren to see koalas in the wild, governments must stop approving the bulldozing of their homes for mines and new housing estates.
“Government must introduce strong national environmental laws and an independent regulator to enforce them.
“The extinction of koalas is entirely avoidable if we protect the habitat they need to survive.”
This research is part of a wider investigation that will be finalised soon.
In late January PM Scott Morrison and Environment Minister Sussan Ley pledged $50 million for the ‘protection and recovery’ of koalas.