Koala mapping ‘madness’ threatens their survival
AFTER the recent fires Noosa's surviving koalas have never been more vulnerable, so the last thing they need is for the state to leave thousands of hectares of habitat unprotected from development.
But that's exactly what Noosa Council claims the Queensland Government's new koala maps have done and councillors want them redrawn.
"Some areas that were previously mapped as koala habitat have been wiped from the state's new mapping at a time when our struggling koalas need all the protection they can get," Mayor Tony Wellington said.
"The state told us the draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy would not result in a net loss of koala habitat. However, that is not the result of their rushed regulations."
Cr Wellington said the maps were rushed through before Christmas without proper consultation.
He said the state should be doing more to help councils protect koala habitat, particularly in the wake of recent devastating bushfires across Queensland.
"In our own shire, fires burned through a significant amount of bushland last year. Protecting our struggling koala populations has never been more important," he said.
"The state's strategy includes a target of protecting 1000ha of koala habitat over the life of the strategy.
"That's nowhere near ambitious enough. In Noosa, our own Yurol-Ringtail State Forest Conservation Project will achieve more than this alone," he said.
Cr Wellington said council's local mapping includes remnant and regrowth vegetation, while the state maps exclude much of the regrowth "despite the fact we know koalas live in these areas".
"Where clearing of koala habitat was unavoidable, council used to be able to condition developers to plant koala food trees in other koala habitat areas to offset the loss," the mayor said.
"But under new administrative arrangements, the Queensland Government will now manage offsets, instead of local councils.
"This is madness, because we have the local knowledge," the mayor said.
"Council has supported koala surveys to inform our koala habitat mapping in our own planning scheme. We have far more accurate mapping than they do."
Council's environment and sustainable development director Kim Rawlings said council had written to the State Government to voice its concerns.
"We've raised a number of issues including the very short time frames councils were given to review the changes and assess the potential impacts of the new mapping," she said.
Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said when the State Government was acting swiftly by releasing new mapping and stronger planning regulations.
"More than 690,000 hectares has now been mapped as koala habitat under these new regulations.
"That is an increase of more than 421,000 hectares on what existed previously for state protected koala habitat.
"Over 577,000 hectares in southeast Queensland is now identified as koala priority area, which includes habitat and areas identified for rehabilitation - that's an area twice the size of ACT," Ms Enoch said.
These areas are large, connected areas that include koala habitat as well as areas that are suitable for habitat restoration and clearing there, apart from some exemptions, is generally prohibited under the new regulations.
Ms Enoch said the new koala planning framework will deliver a more strategic and consistent approach to koala conservation across local government boundaries and give more certainty to the community and industry.