Friday, July 1, 2022

Open for Debate – Koalas

At the risk of venturing onto a minefield, this page will be devoted to the mixed array of articles, research, political announcements and commentary relating to koalas in Australia.

By gathering this material in one place, I hope that at least it will begin to demonstrate the complex nature of the issues involved and make readers consider statements more critically, especially statements by politicians and others with a financial interest.

It seems there is still much to be learnt about our koalas.  As time goes by, perhaps the range of verifiable facts will expand and so the right action to take to care for the koala species and the appropriate, balanced policy response will become clearer and more refined and any poor policy responses will be more open to challenge and correction.

As it is, it seems that the irresistible, innocent koala and people’s instinctive desire to see the species living well in the wild has become open to exploitation.

Certainly, the stories gathered here will show that there are many genuine people doing what they can to help koalas as carers, veterinarians, ecologists, spotters, land owners or managers, or by giving their time or money in other ways.  Those that have been quietly working for koalas for many years have been joined by more since the Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended the ‘endangered’ listing in February 2022 for koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory and the prospect of extinction in our lifetime has been raised.

Also as you will see, Australian governments now speak in terms of millions, even billions of dollars, and millions of hectares of land for koalas and wildlife, with the koala as the icon. Some of this was previously productive agricultural land.

Yet there remains not a small amount of disagreement on fundamental facts – such as whether koala populations are in unnatural decline, and the role of forestry, land management and climate change in this.

So, as you follow the trail, you will see the assorted issues that make up what has become the complex political question of koalas in Australia including: the evidence base, policy implementation, the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (Cth), research integrity, the cost/ benefit analysis, land management, control and use, the socialisation of property, and food security. More will surely become apparent. 

As always, if you have expert experience or knowledge in this field, your input – as balanced and unemotional as possible, preferably debating the points and not the people – is invited. If you know someone who should contribute to this debate, let them, or me, know.

TheEditor@ARR.News

Indigenous

NSW Government invests in aboriginal koala conservation: Griffin

A $600,000 investment to support an Aboriginal koala habitat conservation project is being delivered as one of the first actions in the NSW Koala Strategy. Minister for Environment James Griffin said the project with the Gumbaynggirr community applies cultural lessons from traditional owners. “The traditional custodians of this land intrinsically understand how to care for their Country,” Mr Griffin said ... ARR.News has some questions for the Minister.

Aboriginal koala conservation: Vic Jurskis

I reckon the Monty Python team would have been jealous of the creative genius behind NSW’s Koala Strategy. It would be hilarious except for the $200 million price tag to save an irruptive species which is in much greater numbers across a much wider area than before the European ‘invasion’. Apart from Strzelecki, no explorer saw any koalas because they didn’t live in the grassy valleys occupied by Aborigines and sought by pastoralists.

Research

Koala research team visits

The National Parks and Wildlife Service has a team visiting Narrandera this week to conduct aspects of koala research in the Narrandera Reserve ... Dr Joanne Connolly from Charles Sturt University's proposed research will involve further steps in the research proposal to establish a koala research centre in Narrandera and will complement and build further on the data being collected by the team from the Koalas Biodiversity and Ecological Health Branch of NPWS.

Land

$8.6m to revegetate, protect Brigalow Belt for koalas: Scanlon

“Protecting and restoring habitat is crucial in order for Queensland’s native species to thrive – it’s why we’re investing $1.4 billion in the environment to expand and maintain our protected areas, for wildlife care and ongoing research,” Minister Scanlon said. “This is the most ambitious koala project this region has ever seen. And it adds to a swathe of initiatives aimed at protecting species like koalas, including the addition of more than 1.2 million hectares in Queensland to our protected area estate since 2015." ... ARR.News asked some questions of the Minister and was given a considered response by a departmental spokesperson.

Parliamentary debate

Great Koala Protected Area Bill 2021 – Second Reading Debate

On the evening of 8 June 2022, the Great Koala Protected Area Bill 2021 was debated in the New South Wales Upper House. The debate demonstrates the complexities and many of the fundamental points of disagreement relating to the protection of koalas in New South Wales.

Evidence

The koala, unlike science, is in absolutely no danger of extinction: a case study from NSW’s north coast: Vic Jurskis

Vic Jurskis discusses data from historical reports and field surveys and concludes that koalas are in no danger of extinction. ARR.News asked some further questions of Vic.

Koalas: How threatened? Threatened how?

The Australian Rural & Regional News webinar held on 21 April 2022 is now available for public viewing.

Speakers:
– Professor Helene Marsh, Chair, Threatened Species Scientific Committee
– Cheyne Flanagan, Clinical Director, Port Macquarie Koala Hospital
– Vic Jurskis, Ecologist and author
– Peter Rutherford, Forest Scientist, Secretary, South East Timber Association

Habitat

25,000 seedlings donated to support koala habitat tree planting programs

Forestry Corporation of NSW has delivered 25,000 koala food tree seedlings to the Friends of the Koala’s Lismore nursery to support north coast koala conservation groups’ efforts to establish habitat on private land. With wet weather rife across the region, all involved were relieved that the nursery site remained dry enough to receive the bulk seedling delivery in support of Friends of the Koala’s and Bangalow Koalas’ planting programs.

Population

Important koala population discovered in Kosciuszko National Park: Griffin

Evidence of an important koala population in Kosciuszko National Park has been revealed by new surveys ... conducted in November 2021 and February 2022 that recorded male koalas at 14 sites within the park’s Byadbo Wilderness Area. “This is good news because until these recent surveys, there had only been 16 recorded sightings of koalas in Kosciuszko in more than 80 years,” Mr Griffin said ... ARR.News asks some questions of the Minister.

Funding

NSW releases Australia’s largest investment in koalas: Griffin

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 ... ARR.News sought a response from Minister Griffin and received a response from a departmental spokesperson.

Land

New koala reserves to protect a Noah’s ark of threatened species: Griffin

Koalas, long-nosed potoroos and powerful owls are among more than 20 threatened species to benefit from three additions to the NSW national parks estate. Minister for Environment James Griffin said more than 2,000 hectares has been acquired in three locations – in Monaro, near Yamba, and north of Taree ... ARR.News asked some questions of the Minister and received a response from a departmental spokesperson.

Development

Subdivision modified to preserve koala habitat

A positive outcome for both the environment and a developer has been successfully negotiated by Clarence Valley Council with the approval of modifications to a proposed subdivision at Lawrence ... Community concerns were first raised in November 2021 when a Development Application for the first house in the subdivision was lodged with Council, which would have impacted on koala habitat and feed trees in the road reserve.

Grants

Grants available to help communities save koalas

"There are a number of opportunities for the team at Narrandera’s Koala Reserve to seek financial support and I have actively encouraged them to do so" : Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley ... With no sightings in the Narrandera area for decades, koalas were re-introduced to the area in the early 1970s and have increased their population from 19 to more than 200 in that location ... "Reading between the lines I'm confident they don't have an overall strategy" : Australian Koala Foundation CEO, Deborah Tabart.

Rescue

Orphaned koala joey rescued amid catastrophic floods

A rescued orphaned koala joey is one of countless native animals rescuers expect will need urgent care amid the flooding catastrophe in New South Wales and Queensland. The 14-month-old male koala, named Gulliver, was rescued amid the torrential downpours in Tregeagle in the NSW Northern Rivers region on February 28.

Fatalities

Slow down, koalas are about

Lismore City Council will install temporary signage to reduce the number of koalas being hit by vehicles at six identified koala-strike hot spots around Lismore. “Since the beginning of this year 33 koalas were killed on roads in the Lismore Local Government Area – this is 33 too many,” said Council’s Environmental Strategies Officer Angie Brace.

Monitoring

Drones and dogs team up in Sunshine Coast koala conservation project

For the past three days, a high-tech team from Sunshine Coast Council, University of the Sunshine Coast and the Friends of Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Gardens have worked together to uncover how many koalas live in the reserve and how healthy they are.

Spotting

Max sniffs out koala habitat

Geoff Helisma. Volunteer environmental organisation, Clarence Valley Environment Centre (CEC – established 1989), has released the results of a survey it commissioned, “to undertake koala scat detection [using a specifically trained] dog … in the Shannondale area, [in order] to assess koala presence/absence after the droughts, fires and floods”.

Policy

Better protection for Victoria’s koalas: D’Ambrosio

The new draft Victorian Koala Management Strategy will guide how koalas in Victoria will be conserved into the future − outlining ongoing actions to ensure their security, sustainability and health. Since the previous 2004 strategy was released, new issues impacting koalas have emerged and others have become more significant, including climate change, genetic diversity and extreme bushfires.

Habitat

153,000 trees planted at Wivenhoe Dam to increase koala habitat and water quality

Koala habitat will be increased and water quality improved with the planting of 153,000 trees along Wivenhoe Dam to rehabilitate former grazing land ... The trees have been planted at seven sites on former grazing land and include eucalypts like Queensland blue gum, ironbarks, bloodwoods and grey gums, as well as rough-barked apple, river she-oak, and black tea-tree.

Listing & policy

Increased protection for koalas: Ley

The Morrison Government is boosting the level of protection for Koalas under National Environmental law, and will this week seek agreement from Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory on the National Recovery plan ... “The impact of prolonged drought, followed by the black summer bushfires, and the cumulative impacts of disease, urbanisation and habitat loss over the past twenty years have led to the advice." : Minister Ley.

Listing

Bittersweet win for koalas: Friends of the Koala

Friends of the Koala welcomes the federal government’s decision to up list koalas in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’. 

Commentary

Win for the koala industry means more suffering for koalas: Vic Jurskis

Research using effective survey methods shows that koalas are generally increasing with expanding National Parks and Lock It Up and Let It Burn conservation polices. The valleys are occupied by towns, so the koalas are moving in. Disease, dog attacks and road trauma are symptoms of irruptions, not causes of decline.

Research

Nutritional quality of habitat key to koala numbers in state forests

Research released into koala response to forestry has found that the nutritional quality of trees is critical for koala survival and selective harvesting did not have an adverse impact upon koala numbers on surveyed NSW north coast state forests ... These findings have emerged from a three-year research program independently overseen by the NSW Natural Resources Commission.

Forestry

Unexpected research outcomes for koalas and native forest harvesting

Timber NSW welcomes research conducted over three years released by the Natural Resource Commissioner and NSW Chief Scientist, Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte who states that, “koala density was higher than anticipated in the surveyed forests and was not reduced by selective harvesting.” “This very significant finding totally vindicates the skilful ability of the forest managers to care for the land under their responsibility and protect koalas,” said Timber NSW CEO Maree McCaskill.

Research

The great koala scam continues: Vic Jurskis

There was nothing new or unexpected about the recently announced NSW Natural Resources Commission research on timber harvesting and koalas ... There’s nothing in the NRC report that actually deserves a tick. It’s a well-established historical and scientific fact that koalas are an irruptive species which responds positively to soft new growth ... Declining trees continuously resprout soft young growth until they eventually run out of resources. Koalas breed up in declining forests.

Monitoring

Facial recognition drones to help save koalas

Once limited to science-fiction, drones and facial recognition technology have since become part of modern life and now the technology is being harnessed to help save Australia’s koalas. In new research being undertaken by Flinders University in partnership with conservation charity Koala Life and the SA Government, non-invasive koala monitoring techniques are being developed using drones and facial recognition technology to count, identify and re-identify koalas.

Policy

Toowoomba Regional Council endorses supporting SE Qld Koala Conservation Strategy

Toowoomba Regional Council has 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.

Rescue

Bushfire survivor koala Ember spotted in the wild with joey

Friends of the Koala. A koala so badly injured from the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires, vets didn't think she'd make it, has been spotted in the wild with a joey. Ember was found in November 2019 walking on the burnt ground in Whiporie, New South Wales after devastating fires swept through the area ... Some 18 months later, in the same area where she was released, Ember has been spotted with a joey of her own. She was sighted thriving in the wild with her joey by the person who rescued her – Ros Irwin.

Research

Koala haven

Narrandera may be a future home to a critically important research centre for one of the nation’s most iconic species, the koala. A notice of motion was submitted by deputy mayor David Fahey to Narrandera Shire Council to lobby Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke, Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley and the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service to establish a Koala Research Centre in Narrandera. Cr Fahey said the centre would research and protect the koala population in the Shire, create a tourism opportunity and employment for the town, and protect the disease-free status of the local koala population.

Population

Dunoon koalas: Water Northern Rivers explores local koala population

Nan Nicholson. The Dunoon Dam koalas are even more important than first thought. They can help other koala populations to recover robust genetics. New information has been revealed about the local population of koalas which would be impacted by the proposed 15ML dam at Dunoon.

Community

Koala care walk & talk at Ashby

Barbara Winters. The Ashby Nature Discovery team and the Clarence Valley Koala Working Group proved recently that we can still enjoy Covid-safe community events in the outdoors. The Ashby Hall Reserve is the perfect location to make new connections and go for a walk and learn more about nature while social distancing.

Rescue

Koala joey with blind mum gets second chance after being rescued

A koala joey has been given a second chance after being rescued from the side of the road with his blind mother. The koala mother was rescued with her pouch joey on May 28 after being found disorientated on the ground by a member of the public in Woodenbong in northern New South Wales. The koalas were taken to the Friends of the Koala hospital in East Lismore where the International Fund for Animal Welfare sponsored vet team conducted thorough health checks on both koalas.

Habitat

Keeping koalas and cattle well fed

A healthy herd and healthy habitat are possible. The Casino Food Co-op worked with Coffee Camp landowners Gary and Clare Brown in water catchment health and in establishing a koala habitat ... “It’s a win all-round, the cattle have clean safe drinking water, the creek banks get a facelift after years of erosion and weed infestation and the koalas get a new home,” Casino Co-Op chief executive Simon Stahl said.

Habitat

Seedling donations support koala feed tree community planting program

Forestry Corporation of NSW delivered the first load of 25,000 koala food tree seedlings recently to support north coast koala care groups’ efforts to build koala habitat. The organisation delivered 10,000 seedlings to a new Lismore nursery facility managed by Friends of the Koala to support their, and Bangalow Koalas’, planting programs.

Habitat

Seedling donations supports Port Macquarie Koala Hospital tree giveaway

Forestry Corporation of NSW is halfway through the delivery of 25,000 koala food tree seedlings to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital for their annual koala food tree giveaway program ... The seedlings were grown at Forestry Corporation’s Grafton nursery and have had an exceptional start with the perfect growing conditions and look extremely healthy and luscious, said Forestry Corporation’s Partnerships Leader, Sandra Madeley.

Land

Great Koala National Park – report, criticism and response

The University of Newcastle has released an economic impact assessment and environmental benefit analysis of the Great Koala National Park proposed for the mid north coast of New South Wales. ARR.News has received a critical analysis of the report to which the University has responded. Over to you.

Land use

NSW Government delivers Koala SEPP 2021

“This is a win for regional NSW and balances the interests of farmers and the protection of koalas and their habitat,” Mr Barilaro said. “Land zoned for primary production or forestry in regional NSW will not be subject to the new SEPP, which means farmers will not be strangled by red tape."

Land use

Lack of consultation on new Koala SEPP a concern for farmers

NSW Farmers is concerned by a lack of consultation with landholders around new koala regulations and what they will mean for farmers. NSW Farmers’ President James Jackson said it was disappointing the agreement made with the Premier last year to protect koalas and farms had been torn up.
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