ADJOURNMENT NOTES SPECIAL EDITION- SAVING OUR KOALAS

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Welcome to a special edition of Adjournment Notes- Saving our Koalas. 

A lot has been said in the last week regarding the Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP). I bring you this special edition of Adjournment Notes to present you with the facts regarding koala populations and protecting their habitat. 

 


As you may already be aware, I was a Member on the Portfolio Committee 7 inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW for over a year. The committee recently released our report warning that unless the state government took action the koala could be extinct in the wild by 2050. 

The inquiry was established because of significant concern in the community about the future of Australia's most loved animal. Even before the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires it was clear that the koala in NSW, already a threatened species, was in significant trouble.

Then came the devastating bush fires. At least 5,000 koalas have perished, potentially many more.

The ongoing destruction of koala habitat through the clearing of land for housing, roads, agriculture, development, mining and forestry has severely impacted most koala populations in the state over many decades.

The committee found that this fragmentation and loss of habitat poses the most serious threat to koala populations and made a number of key recommendations that stronger action must be taken by government to protect and restore koala habitat on both public and private land.

The high level of engagement with this inquiry by individuals and stakeholders, the overwhelming majority of which expressed concern for the future of the koala, shows how widespread support is for government action to protect koalas.

In this newsletter you will find: 
  • Information on the Koala SEPP,
  • The facts and fiction about the Koala SEPP,
  • Information relating to koala population decline,
  • Portfolio Committee 7 report into koala populations and their habitat in NSW. 

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue.

    As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

    Sincerely,  
WHAT IS THE KOALA SEPP?
The NSW Government is committed to increasing protections for our iconic koalas while balancing the rights of farmers and landholders in regional NSW.

On 1 March 2020, the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala SEPP) Koala Habitat Protection replaced SEPP 44 – Koala Habitat Protection (SEPP 44).

The Koala SEPP was developed in line with the latest scientific advice and after an extensive consultation process with peak organisations representing environment, agriculture and forestry interests.

The new Koala SEPP aims to reverse the trend of koala population decline through habitat loss while still providing certainty and protection for farmers, councils and industry. It’s about striking a balance between development and the conservation and protection of koala habitat.
FACT AND FICTION ABOUT THE KOALA SEPP.
Planning Minister the Hon. Rob Stokes MP, laying out the facts and fiction regarding the Koala SEPP in the Daily Telegraph on Friday, September 11 2020. 
FICTION: The policy makes farms “un-farmable”, with farmers now having to seek permission to undertake routine agriculture, like building a new fence.

FACT: Farmers still won’t need approval to build fences or farm sheds. In fact, farmers can continue to do the routine agricultural activities they have always done. Farmers can also clear vegetation under the same under the same rules that applied before. 

FICTION: The areas identified as "core koala habitat" aren't accurate. 

FACT: Before the new rules, entire council areas were identified as potential koala habitat. The new map draws an outer limit to the area in which a council can investigate whether koalas live there. Councils must consult before preparing a local koala plan and conduct an onground survey at their expense if a farmer requests. Even then, any local koala plan is checked by the state government. 

FICTION: Under the new policy a “koala habitat” will become an Environmental Zone which restricts farming activities. 

FACT: The koala policy and guidelines don’t even mention Environmental Zones and the zoning of land is unchanged.

FICTION: The list of koala habitat trees includes noxious weeds. 

FACT: There are no noxious weeds on the tree species weeds on the tree species list. 

FICTION: The koala policy is about pushing city guilt about loss of urban koala habitat onto country folk. 

FACT: Koalas live in the city and the bush. The policy will protect koala colonies in southwest Sydney just as much as the koalas on the north coast.
Koalas emerged from our horrid summer bushfires devastated. This image was taken by me on a Committee site visit at Port Macquarie Koala hospital where we met the lucky survivors from Regional NSW.

Some estimates have koala numbers in the wild down to 15,000. Extinction by 2050 is on the cards. Now is not the time to weaken koala protections. 
Only activities which require development consent from council will need to consider the Koala SEPP. Many day to day agricultural/land management activities on rural land do not require development consent from council and do not need to consider the SEPP.
 
Things you can do without considering the Koala SEPP on a farm include:
✅ Clearing and other land management activities under the Land Management Codes;

✅ Extensive agriculture, which includes things like cropping, livestock grazing, bee keeping, dairy;

✅ Any exempt or complying development listed under SEPP (Exempt or Complying Development Codes) or another environmental planning instrument.

Some examples include:
✅ Farm buildings (other than stock holding yards, grain silos and grain bunkers)
✅ Fences (internal and boundary)
✅ Fowl and poultry houses
✅ Rainwater tanks
✅ Farm tracks
✅ Windmills
✅ Animal Shelters
✅ Carport
✅ Earthworks, retaining walls and structural support
✅ Emergency work and repairs
✅ Fuel tanks and gas storage
✅ Minor building alterations
✅ A house
PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE 7 REPORT INTO KOALA POPULATIONS AND HABITAT
Finally, to read a copy of the extensive report into koala populations and habitat in NSW please click here

The report makes 42 recommendations and 16 findings. 

Ultimately, this report warns the population decline is so serious the koala is heading for effective extinction in the wild if action is not taken to protect their dwindling habitat.

Now is not the time to further weaken koala protections.