Councillor's Noosa comments anger Coast koala crusaders
COUNCIL environment portfolio holder Councillor Tony Wellington has been censured for "irresponsible" comments about the plight of koalas.
Queensland Koala Crusaders president Meghan Halverson and Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue founder Ray Chambers have taken exception to comments made by the Sunshine Coast Council Division 12 councillor that there are probably more koalas in the Noosa area than most people realise.
This was after he found a koala in a tree near his Tinbeerwah home and took a photograph.
"Councillor Wellington's comments were ill-informed and irresponsible, particularly for a councillor charged with council's environment portfolio," Ms Halverson said.
Mr Cambers described Cr Wellington as an "embarrassment" who was "all talk and no action.
Mrs Halverson said his public comments appeared based on the strength of having sighted a lone koala beside the Cooroy-Noosa Rd and being aware of others inhabiting the Tewantin State Forest.
She said the Cooroy-Noosa Rd had claimed the lives of many koalas as there was no koala-proof fencing.
"Instead of grabbing his camera, Cr Wellington should have grabbed his phone to call the Sunshine Coast Koala Rescue team. The koala should have been moved to a safer site by professionals."
Mrs Halverson says the efforts of koala rescue volunteers should also be acknowledged.
"In the absence of any ideal release site, the Tewantin State Forest has been used for rehabilitated koala release for quite some time, bolstering koala numbers in that area," says Mrs Halverson.
Mrs Halverson said Cr Wellington and Sunshine Coast Council were yet to respond to the 2012 Sunshine Coast Koala Summit report, and they had ignored 17 recommendations in it to conserve wild koala populations on the Sunshine Coast.
Cr Wellington's response to the "koala crusaders'" criticisms of his koala observations:
"I neither said nor implied that there was no crisis in terms of koala survival in the local region. The opening paragraph in the article was not written by me, and nor did it accurately derive from material that I provided to the newspaper. I did not state that the 'species' survival prospects locally are not as dire as they may appear'. Those words were written by the journalist.
"What I did state was that there may be more koalas than many people realise. I think it's fair to say that, while there has been significant news coverage of koalas in the headland section of Noosa National Park, there is little appreciation of koala populations in the hinterland. The purpose of my raising the subject was two-fold - to alert people to the existence of the koala population in Tewantin National Park, and to drive home the message that off-leash dogs are a threat to these koalas.
"If we are to become a koala-aware community, then responsible pet ownership has to become entrenched.
"I have been an advocate for koala action within the Sunshine Coast Council, and have liaised with a wide range of koala experts. I have also been an advocate for council efforts to improve biodiversity per se across the Coast." </body>