Most Aussies will remember the recent heartache and compassion the nation showed after the daring rescue of Lewis, a rare survivor of recent NSW bushfires who subsequently succumbed to his injuries. Many more, however, will be unaware that a recently revised State policy is putting survivors like Lewis in the firing line even if they manage to make it out alive and their habitat remains intact.
Australia has been left leaderless in the middle of this ongoing ecological disaster once already; we can’t let our Koalas be let down as well.
In the midst of a climate emergency and some of the most devastating bushfires in living memory, the NSW Government’s new koala policy contains a range of concerning clauses that we think every Aussie ought to know about:
- the new policy does not require developers to undertake important and potentially life-saving surveys of core Koala habitat. Instead, it asks them to follow a series of as-yet unpublished guidelines. Under the previous policy known as ‘SEPP 44’, development applicants were required to commission a qualified person to conduct a survey and, if potential core koala habitat was found, they were obliged to manage any impacts on the resident koala population by drafting an appropriate management plan. The revised policy removes this requirement, with accompanying reports citing the process as “lengthy and expensive”. The new policy expunges the requirement, arguing that the new Koala Development Application Map makes it unnecessary. The chief objective is saving time and money for aspiring developers.
- the new policy allows Councils to green-light developments if land is not covered by an approved and current “koala plan of management”. Despite a small number of Councils creating and submitting such plans since 2015, the NSW Government is yet to ratify them. Under the policy, such plans have “no effect” unless they are approved and ratified.
- the new policy relies on fallible new mapping software. For example, the map contains a region of “highly suitable koala habitat” on the north coast. Close to a third of this land has been devastated by fires in 2019. Thousands of Koalas are estimated to have died in the process. Rather than urging the Government to enact and enforce protection of these vulnerable populations, who have been crippled by land-clearing and logging, the new policy creates conditions for Koalas to be in the firing line in more ways than one.
We shouldn’t need laws that threaten penalties on developers for destroying the homes of an animal we all consider such an integral and important part of Australian culture; but we do. Now, we need our Government to take a look at the destruction circling around it and impose a strict and strongly enforced moratorium on any development that could cause further harm to key Koala habitats. We need them to do it now.
Please join us, as we demand Minister Matt Kean, NSW State Minister for Energy and Environment, to review the new laws.
To survivors like Lewis, it might mean the difference between life and death.
Learn more here.