Koala protection plan to ‘slash habitat’
THE Queensland council area renowned for its koala population could be stripped of half its protected habitat following a new "flawed" State Government koala protection plan, launched to the community at the worst time of year.
Both Redland City Council and community group Redlands2030 have publicly called for the Government to provide extra time for public submissions around proposed protected koala habitat areas, which was released last week.
Redlands2030 president Steve MacDonald said many Redland koalas would miss out on any form of habitat protection if the draft State Southeast Queensland Conservation strategy was adopted in its current form, which the group described as being "deeply flawed".
"This is a very rushed initial consultation period which closes on 22 December - just before Christmas," Mr MacDonald said.
"It invites public comment about changes they would like to see to detailed state mapping. "Most disappointingly, the only koala trees to get any protection in Redlands will be those located in areas officially mapped as 'koala habitat'.
"The deadline on submissions about the overall koala strategy closes on 31 January, 2020 - during the traditional holiday season.
"We think many Redland residents will find this simply unacceptable to have consultation about this important issue done over the traditional holiday season.
"We will be asking for an extension of this community consultation period so that it can take place in a serious and respectful way."
Mr MacDonald said many areas where koalas were regularly seen had been ignored, including large areas of Cleveland, Ormiston and Wellington Point.
"Essentially guaranteeing their death sentence," he said.
"Here in Redlands, and probably elsewhere in southeast Queensland, it seems that developers get better protection than koalas."
Mr MacDonald called on Redlands residents to make a submission to the state government to demonstrate the importance of protecting koalas to the community.
Mayor Karen Williams said giving the community just two weeks to have their say on the proposed changes, which include a proposal to effectively halve local koala protections, was appalling.
"This is one of the poorest examples of government engagement I have personally witnessed," she said.
"To put mapping out just before Christmas and give the community only two weeks to have their say is just not on.
"I think councillors summed it up in today's meeting using words such as 'shocked, appalled, absurd and crazy' to describe the two week consultation period."
Cr Williams said that despite feedback from the council, and two years of work effort and a commitment to consult with local government, the draft mapping revealed last week proposed to effectively halve the koala areas protected within Redlands Coast.
"The newly revealed mapping will result in substantially reduced and fragmented habitat," Cr Williams said.
"Under the current draft of State KPA mapping proposals, 1,935ha of existing Redlands Coast koala habitat and 5,680ha of koala rehabilitation areas would be removed from mapping and planning controls.
"While acknowledging the State's intention to increase the overall net coverage of areas of koala protection across the region, this appears to have been done at the expense of Redlands Coast's koala population, with what seems to be a substantial reduction in the area of mapped koala habitat in the city.
"This is a retrograde step and prejudices both the investment in time and resources Council has made into koala protection for many years.
"As an example, the new KPA mapping fails to include substantial areas of North Stradbroke Island despite its genetically unique and healthy koala population.
"KPA mapping should be expanded to include unmapped areas of North Stradbroke Island, including, where appropriate, within townships.
"On 30 August, council wrote to the State Government and encouraged them to use council's mapping, which protects far more vegetation where we know, from the work we have done, that there are koalas.
"Instead, the State has relied on spatial analysis of remnant and high-value regrowth vegetation that, without field verification, will result in reduced koala habitat areas across Redlands Coast.
"The State Government is proposing a State-led review of the proposed KPA mapping over the next two years, but today Councillors have made it clear that we want the original area regulated by our mapping included in the State's new mapping so it is part of the review."
In addition to providing a submission to the State Government's proposed mapping, the council will also consider a submission on the State's koala strategy in January.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said last week the "landmark" draft strategy and draft mapping outlined strong measures to protect koala habitat and address threats impacting southeast Queensland's koala population.
She said the new mapping identified more than 570,000 hectares of land to be declared koala priority areas - an area that is twice the size of the ACT - of which more than 300,000 hectares is core habitat.
"We are proposing to implement stronger regulations to limit clearing in these large interconnected areas of high quality habitat," she said.