Saturday, December 3, 2022

NSW releases Australia’s largest investment in koalas: Griffin

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Koalas in Wollondilly
Koala in Wollondilly. Photo: DPE Sarah Pulling

Australian Rural & Regional News sought the Minister’s response on a few questions, set out below the Minister’s statement together with a response received from a departmental spokesperson. No response was received from the Minister.

James Griffin, Environment Minister (NSW), Media Release, 9 April 2022

The NSW Government has released its new Koala Strategy, backed by an unprecedented amount of funding and more than 30 actions to conserve and grow koala populations.

Environment Minister James Griffin said the five-year plan is a comprehensive roadmap that will help deliver the NSW Government’s ambition to double the number of koalas.

“This $193.3 million NSW Koala Strategy is the biggest financial commitment by any government to secure the future of koalas in the wild,” Mr Griffin said.

“In fact, this is the largest investment in any single species in Australia, and demonstrates how committed we are to conservation and achieving our goal of doubling koala numbers by 2050.

“We know there are multiple threats to koalas, including loss and fragmentation of their habitat, compounded by the impact of the devastating 2019–20 bushfires, as well as vehicle strike and dog attack.”

The Strategy focuses on conservation actions under four themes:

  • $107.1 million for koala habitat conservation, to fund the protection, restoration, and improved management of 47,000 hectares of koala habitat
  • $19.6 million to supporting local communities to conserve koalas
  • $23.2 million for improving the safety and health of koalas by removing threats, improving health and rehabilitation, and establishing a translocation program
  • $43.4 million to support science and research to build our knowledge of koalas.
koala population graph
Source: NSW Gov’t

“This strategy will better secure 10 climate resilient koala stronghold locations from the Southern Tablelands, to Campbelltown and Lismore, which will receive intensive action in the next five years to support the existing populations there,” Mr Griffin said.

“Some of these actions include preventing vehicle strike and dog attacks, and restoring and protecting 47,000 additional hectares of habitat.”

A key part of the Koala Strategy involves establishing partnerships with conservation groups and communities.

Projects funded by the new Koala Strategy include:

  • Partnering with Taronga Conservation Society Australia to restore more than 5,000 hectares of Box Gum grassy woodlands around the Western Slopes of the Great Dividing Range. Koalas will be translocated to the site once the woodland is re-established.
  • Partnering with World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Australia to protect 500 hectares of high quality koala habitat on private land under conservation agreements across the Northern Rivers region through the Biodiversity Conversation Trust.
  • Working with volunteer wildlife rehabilitators, vets and other partner organisations to enhance co-ordination of emergency response for koalas and other wildlife due to bushfire or extreme weather events.

“We all want to see koalas thrive in the wild for generations to come, and everyone, including land managers, local councils, wildlife carers, citizen scientists and the NSW Government needs to be involved,” Mr Griffin said.

“Protecting and restoring habitat will also support other threatened and endangered species, such as powerful owls and glossy black cockatoos.”

The Strategy will help to fill key knowledge gaps and fund priority scientific studies to support koalas, including chlamydia vaccine trials.

The new Strategy builds upon the previous $44.7 million NSW Koala Strategy, which protected more koala habitat, invested in fixing koala roadkill hotspots, provided wildlife care training and funded scientific research, among other things.

To read the Koala Strategy, visit: environment.nsw.gov.au/koalas

Questions for Minister Griffin

Australian Rural & Regional News sought the Minister’s response to a few questions on the Koala Strategy. No response has been received from Minister Griffin. The response provided below was received from a departmental spokesperson.

ARR.News questions:

  • What does “improved [land] management” mean here?
  • The Koala Inquiry heard from their expert witnesses that New South Wales’ most genetically diverse, widespread and rapidly growing populations in the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area were incinerated by the Gospers Mountain Fire during Black Summer. It set a world record for area burnt by a single, in this case natural, ignition – more than half a million hectares, while the previous  $44.7m Koala Strategy, including for habitat protection, was in place.

    What will this $200 million five-year plan do to reduce high intensity bushfires?
  • There is strong historical and scientific evidence that there are more koalas over a much wider area than there were when Europeans arrived in New South Wales: https://www.publish.csiro.au/wr/WR17032.

    What is the precise evidence that doubling the number of koalas is a sustainable and indeed optimum level for koala populations?

Departmental spokesperson:

  • The NSW Government has set an ambitious goal to double koala numbers in New South Wales by 2050.
  • To grow the number of koalas, high-quality connected habitat is needed to support them. Based on expert estimates of the area of land koalas need to survive and breed, an additional 100,000 hectares of secure, well-connected habitat with appropriate densities of feed trees will be needed to support an additional 20,000 koalas by 2050.
  • To achieve this, the NSW Government has adopted a target to secure, restore or create an additional 100,000 hectares of koala habitat over the next 30 years. The NSW Koala Strategy will take the first step towards reaching this target by protecting and restoring 47,000 hectares of koala habitat.
  • The NSW Government is working with landholders to restore and conserve koala habitat on private land and build community knowledge. Funding is also supporting the acquisition of koala habitat to add to the national park estate.
  • Koalas face various threats, including habitat loss and fragmentation, vehicle strikes, disease, dog attacks, fires, drought and heatwaves. Improvements are required to better protect them from the impact of these threats.
  • Under the NSW Koala Strategy, the NSW Government will develop bushfire management approaches to better protect koalas and their habitat while also protecting people and property.

Background

  • Fire management spans several NSW Government agencies including the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS), Fire and Rescue NSW (FRNSW), the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Forestry NSW.

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