Toowoomba Regional Council, Media Release, 23 September 2021
Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) this week endorsed supporting the Phase 1 Implementation Plan (2020-2022) of the South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2020-2025 at its September Ordinary Meeting.
In addition, Council will advise the state government that it wishes to see the Koala Conservation Strategy expanded to incorporate the Darling Downs following consultation with local communities.
TRC Planning and Development Committee chair Cr Megan O’Hara Sullivan said Council also agreed to advise the Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef that accurate koala mapping of the Region was needed to better reflect the situation on the ground.
Cr O’Hara Sullivan said the Department of Environment and Science was seeking local government support for the first phase of the Implementation Plan 2020-2022, which involved limited actions in the Toowoomba Region.
Cr O’Hara Sullivan said the strategy applied to the Toowoomba Urban Extent that was in the boundary of the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017.
“The state government has mapped almost 9000ha of koala habitat in the Toowoomba Region, which is a small geographic area in South East Queensland,” Cr O’Hara Sullivan said.
“To support protection of this habitat, Council is undertaking work that supports actions in the Plan that are related to planning scheme updates for habitat protection as required by other Queensland legislation to provide increased protection to koala habitat areas in South East Queensland.
“The Plan provides a mechanism to work collaboratively and achieve actions in partnership with the state government.”
TRC Planning and Development Committee portfolio leader Cr Bill Cahill said development applications that proposed interfering with koala habitat in core koala habitat areas outside koala priority areas must be referred to the state assessment and referral agency for assessment.
Cr Cahill said exemptions included clearing a development footprint up to 500m², clearing for firebreaks, maintenance and activities that are considered reasonable to allow landholders to live on and manage their properties.
He said Council primarily offered support as a member of a Department of Environment and Science Local Government Working Group and would further explore how it could work with the state government.
“Due to the Toowoomba Regional Council being only partially in the South East Queensland Regional Plan, it has the smallest area of koala habitat of all the South East Queensland local authorities (1.2% of the total South East Queensland core koala habitat),” Cr Cahill said.
“Council’s own work being undertaken for the preparation of a new Planning Scheme incorporates a study into matters of local environmental significance, which covers all of the Toowoomba Region.
“This will provide us with baseline information on areas supporting habitat corridors and other details around biodiversity. This work will provide better protection for remnant vegetation.”
If community members have additional data on species records, their data can be submitted to either Wildnet or the Atlas of Living Australia.
When the record is verified it will be added to the State’s databases and could be used to inform future updates of the State mapping.