The New South Wales Government has launched a plan to double the threatened koala population in part by increasing the size of national parks, but that has farmers worried.
- NSW Government has set a target to double the koala population by 2050
- One of the strategies to achieve this will be increasing the size of the state’s national parks
- Farmers say feral animals will threaten koalas and suggest increasing incentives for farmers to protect habitats along with strategic burning
NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean said action was needed to save the koalas after as many as 5,000 died in the massive bushfires earlier in the year.
With the population shrinking to an estimated 15,000 there are concerns koalas may become extinct.
NSW Farmers Association is opposed to the expansion of national parks because it will increase the number of feral pests which will make farming very difficult.
Mr Kean said he understood farmers’ concerns and was also worried about the risks pest animals posed to koalas.
“Feral dogs are a huge threat to koalas so we’ll be investing a lot, spending thousands of hours in the air shooting pests,” he said.
Urban sprawl, fire a bigger threat: farmers
Bronwyn Petrie from the NSW Farmers Association acknowledged the Government had been successful in culling feral animals along the eastern seaboard, but said the focus now should be on addressing other causes of the decline in koala populations.
Ms Petrie believes the State Government should reduce urban sprawl instead of increase the area of national parks.
She is also calling for more “mosaic burning” of koala habitats to reduce the intensity of bushfires.
Ms Petrie said volunteer firefighters, many of them farmers, witnessed koalas unable to escape the extreme bushfires last summer because of the intensity of the flames, and said hazard reduction burning could alleviate that.
Farmers want a different approach
Ms Petrie said the best way to protect the koala populations was to pay farmers.
“If governments put a value on how many koalas you have on your property, farmers would be putting their hand up,” she said.
Ms Petrie said landholders would be more willing to protect koala habitats if it was valued in the same way as land clearing.
The Nature Conservation Council has welcomed the minister’s pledge to double the state’s koala population.
The council wants the Government to support the Great Koala National Park proposal, which would protect more than 55,000 hectares of prime koala habitat in the state’s Coffs Harbour region.
The council want to see an end to logging and land clearing on public and private land to protect koala habitat and invest in large-scale revegetation projects on land that has been “over-cleared”.