25,000ha being set aside for koala reserves

A AU$45 million intervention package to protect the threatened koala population has been announced by the New South Wales Government.

Key points:

- 25,000 hectares of forest across NSW set aside for koala reserves
- Koala population in NSW has declined by more than 25 per cent in 20 years
- Fixing road kill hotspots, opening a koala hospital among NSW government measures

Thousands of hectares of land will be set aside for koalas, which have fallen in population by about 26 per cent over the past two decades in NSW. Almost 25,000 hectares of state forest in the mid-north coast will become a koala habitat.

More than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat will be used as new koala reserves. Over 4,000 hectares of native forest on the Mid North Coast will also be transferred to the National Parks Estate.

About AU$20 million from the NSW Environmental Trust will be used to purchase land with prime koala habitat that can be permanently reserved as national parks. The actions to conserve koalas were informed by a 2016 review of the state's decline of koala populations, led by the state's chief scientist Professor Mary O'Kane. The strategies plan to be implemented and monitored over three years and reviewed in 2021 reports “> ABC.

Industry groups representing NSW’s timber and forest products industries have slammed the NSW Government’s announcement to lock up more State Forest, with no evidence that it will lead to better conservation outcomes for koalas and without consulting with industry.

Timber NSW and the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) said that while Australia’s forest industries are committed to koala conservation, we need evidence-based decisions that recognise the vital role that our production forests play in the sustainable management of our forests, including the forest industries’ considerable investment in conservation, bushfire mitigation and recreational amenities.

Timber NSW and AFPA are also demanding answers on how today’s announcement will impact on future wood supply for the industry, and what the Premier means when she says that the 24,538 hectares are just a starting point.

Timber NSW General Manager, Ms Maree McCaskill, said today’s announcement undermined the work of the NSW Forest Industries Taskforce and the NSW Forestry Industry Roadmap, which promised a more consultative, evidence-based approach to forest policy. The Taskforce has not been convened for almost 6 months (the last meeting was on 24 November 2017).

“With 90 per cent of NSW’s forests in National Parks and Reserves (80 per cent, or almost 6 million hectares) or in State Forest Reserves and protected areas (10 per cent, or about 1 million hectares), and just 1-3% per cent selectively harvested each year and then regenerated as required by law, we should be demanding to know why our extensive reserves system is failing,” Ms McCaskill said.

“The NSW Government continues to ignore the single biggest message from industry that we cannot sustain any further reduction in production forest. Above all else we need resource security and policy stability to drive the investment decisions that will allow our industry to innovate and grow,” Ms McCaskill concluded.
Source: AFPA, ABC

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