Koalas – At The Mercy Of Right Wing Governments
By Sue Arnold
Several years ago, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), designated the koala as one of the ten species most impacted by climate change, globally.
As usual, the Federal and state governments ignored the warning, continuing their ongoing denial of climate change impacts. The same governments ignored the warnings of retired Fire chiefs and scientists that the ongoing drought, greatly exacerbated by climate change, would create a bushfire genocide. They warned governments that plans needed to be put in place to cope with looming catastrophes.
Instead, the NSW government severely cut the budget of the Rural Fire Service. Budget cuts also reduced the number of rangers in National Parks.
In November fires torched massive areas of forest. By January, the Federal Minister for the Environment, Sussan Ley, indicated more than 8000 koalas had been incinerated. Many more koalas died in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
On Kangaroo Island in South Australia, thousands and thousands of koalas died dreadful deaths as the blue gum plantations went up in flames. Many koalas died on the mainland as fires swept through the Adelaide Hills.
Koalas were already in terrible shape because of the ongoing drought. Carers report that before the bushfires koalas were coming into care dehydrated, thin, with many abandoning their joeys.
No state or federal government has ensured any legal protection of koala habitat. Koalas in every state are barriers to development. Massive urbanisation projects to cater for growth and more growth ensure the extinction of koalas and other wildlife species.
The long term plan favoured by both major political parties is for Australia to have a population of 50 million. This ancient dry continent has a limited carrying capacity, a limited amount of viable agricultural land and as well demonstrated during the drought, exceedingly limited water.
The continent is sick. Rivers, forests, Murray Darling are in a terrible state.
A major driver of the crises facing koalas’ survival is a Memorandum of Understanding which set up an agreement known as the Common Assessment Method. (CAM). In 2015, the CAM was created by Greg Hunt, then Minister for Environment, all states signed onto the MOU.
The CAM only allows one national listing of a species. A huge backward step as it means no regional koala population can be protected by the provisions of the Environmental Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).
Only state governments can make submissions to upgrade koalas to endangered status. There are no legal provisions which allow public citizens to force governments to make these submissions.
Conservation groups and scientists can also make submissions to list and upgrade species but the process is cumbersome and any final decision is made by the Minister. He/she can reject all the science and refuse to upgrade. At a minimum, the process can take a year.
There are no emergency listing provisions under the EPBC Act or under any state legislation.
In NSW, the largest healthy colony of koalas is resident in southwest Sydney. The region is targeted for massive urbanisation which will see the koalas deprived of critical habitat, leaving them with no adequate corridors or survival means.
No amount of protest has persuaded the Berejiklian government to protect this precious colony. Every single living koala is precious genetic material.
Nor will Berejiklian consider requests for a moratorium on forestry. During the bushfires, Forestry Corporation was logging in unburned areas, rejecting all pleas to spare primary koala habitat which was being logged.
In Queensland, the Labor government is dedicated to eradicating the koala in spite of its efforts to promote yet another draft koala strategy for South East Queensland. Premier Palaczszuk expects the public to believe that habitat can be saved at the same time as delivering another 2.5 million people to the area.
The South Australian and Victorian governments have weak, virtually useless Wildlife Acts providing minimal protection. Koalas in Queensland and NSW are listed under the EPBC Act as Vulnerable, but koalas in Victoria and South Australia are not included in the EPBC listing.
Unless these governments are consigned to history, and replaced by sane, responsible politicians, Australia will become a concrete desert devoid of wildlife.
A rotten legacy to leave the next generation.
*Sue Arnold, a former Fairfax investigative journalist, is a guest writer for Woke’s fourth edition. She's an environmentalist and coordinates the Australians for Animals Inc. She works tirelessly defending the habitat of Koalas and is the editor of the Facebook Page Koalacrisis.
Australians for Animals Inc. is a NSW registered charity. Their Facebook page koalacrisis has a huge readership. Donations can be made to: www.givenow.com.au/koalacrisis. They support several shelters and focus on political, scientific and legal action.
** Cover image by John Vossen
*** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.