The Palaszczuk Government is moving to protect koalas in South East Queensland with new plans announced today to increase the protection of more than half a million hectares of land through a landmark new koala strategy.
At Currumbin Wildlife Hospital today, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said Queenslanders are able to have their say on the draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-24, which paves the way toward greater protection.
“We know koalas are under threat and that is why my Government has been working with experts, the conservation sector, local governments and industry on a plan to ensure they are protected into the future,” the Premier said.
“Today we are releasing a landmark draft strategy and draft mapping that outline strong measures to protect koala habitat and address the threats impacting South East Queensland’s koala population.
“New mapping identifies 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.
“Ensuring the protection of these large corridors of land will address one of the main causes of a declining koala population, which is the destruction of habitat.”
The Premier said today’s release of the draft strategy outlines existing and future actions to deliver on an election commitment to implement the Koala Expert Panel’s six recommendations for protecting koalas.
“We have a once in a generation chance to ensure their survival in the South East and that is why we are asking every Queenslander to get involved.
“Particularly as recent bushfires have had a devastating effect on the koala population with animals killed or badly injured, it’s never been a more pertinent time to act.”
People will have until 31 January 2020 to provide feedback on the draft strategy.
Ms Palaszczuk also today announced the Government was providing $50,000 for koala care infrastructure.
The Palaszczuk Government is also investing $2 million into establishing a five-year partnership with the Queensland Trust for Nature to deliver on-ground koala habitat restoration in priority areas through partnerships with landholders and local governments.
Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said the strategy was based on the best available science to protect habitat and give koalas the best chance of survival.
“Sadly, science has shown that koala populations have decreased by 50-80% in South East Queensland habitat areas over about 20 years and nearly three quarters of essential koala habitat has already been destroyed,” she said.
“Koalas are an iconic species of state, national and international importance and Queenslanders want to see them protected.”
Minister Enoch said koala habitat areas in the strategy were identified using internationally recognised, state-of-the-art modelling, including two decades of koala sighting records, scientific research and existing mapping by local councils.
The strategy has been developed in consultation with a dedicated Koala Advisory Council, which includes members of both conservation and development sectors as well as koala experts, First Nations representatives and local government.
Minister Enoch thanked the Koala Advisory Council for its hard work over the past year and its commitment to striking a balance between conservation and the needs of a growing population.
Koala Advisory Council Chair Mark Townend said the strategy was comprehensive and addressed multiple factors that threaten koalas.
“I would like to thank each and every member of the Council for pushing hard to represent their stakeholders and helping to achieve a forward-thinking and realistic strategy that will protect the koala population in our state,” Mr Townend said.
“The strategy addresses all threats impacting on koala populations including habitat loss, disease management, vehicle strikes and dog attacks.
“Queenslanders can be confident the koala will be in and around our backyards long into the future.”
The strategy builds on the Palaszczuk Government’s work to protect koalas including annual funding of $1.5 million to the South East Queensland Wildlife Hospital Network and the $1.4 million Community Sustainability Action Grants program.
The new Strategy and mapping can be accessed by visiting www.qld.gov.au/seqkoalas.
Consultation on the mapping closes on 22 December 2019 and consultation on the strategy closes on 31 January 2020.