Wildlife experts have slammed the Queensland government’s response to a report on koalas.The Queensland government’s response to a expert panel report addressing the koala’s drastically dwindling numbers has been labelled “hot air”.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch has vowed to hone the state government’s protection strategy after accepting all six recommendations by an expert panel.
She will also set up a Koala Advisory Council to oversee the strategy after the panel noted the state’s koala population decline may be escalating.
Ms Enoch on Friday said the council would comprise government, industry and community stakeholders, also pointing to the tightened tree-clearing laws passed in state parliament on Thursday.
“The recommendations provide a thorough and innovative template to balance urban growth with the need to address the decline of koalas in southeast Queensland,” she said.
But Australian Koala Foundation boss Deborah Tabart said the response falls short.
“What I would say to the premier is ‘you need to stop any habitats going down now’,” she told AAP.
Panel leader Jonathan Rhodes, from the University of Queensland, said the report has put the state on a clearer path to better koala protection.
He said habitat loss was the primary reason for the decline but it’s not known how many koalas are left in the wild.
Associate Professor Rhodes said the dramatic decline in southeast Queensland was worst shown in the Redlands area where numbers have dropped by 80 per cent in 20 years.
“Loss of habitat is from urban development, which is regulated by the planning framework,” he said.
“If we’re serious about trying to protect koalas in southeast Queensland, we have to look at the planning framework.”
Ms Tabart criticised the establishment of the advisory council given the inclusion of business representatives.
“It’s all just hot air,” she said.
“It’s always just yet another committee. This panel was supposed to be the experts. Who are they going to invite? The developers, I suppose.
“If you do not allow koalas to live in their trees and have access to other bushland, extinction occurs.
“The koala needs a piece of legislation saying, ‘these trees cannot be cut down’. That’s the only way this is going to work.”
Australian Associated Press