THE region’s koala activists have slammed a new NSW government project aimed at helping to save the state’s koala population.
The government launched the new $20 million private land purchase program on Wednesday, in the hope of securing more habitat for the vulnerable species as a part of its $44.7 million koala strategy.
However, the new program has drawn criticism from some koala activists, who say the project overlooks the north-west.
NSW Environmental Minister Gabrielle Upton said the government would be a “willing buyer”.
“The koala is synonymous with Australia and the NSW government is committed to ensuring its secure future,” Ms Upton said.
“More than 24,000 hectares of unproductive state forest is being set aside for koalas, but we also want to expand this by buying up suitable land across the state.
“Essentially, if you own good-quality, occupied koala habitat that meets the criteria, the NSW government is a willing buyer.”
Ms Upton said applications from other areas of the state would also be looked at.
“We are initially seeking expressions of interest from private landholders in Port Macquarie, the Southern Highlands, Port Stephens and the Far Northeast region,” she said.
“While these four areas are of particular focus, the government will also assess expressions of interest from other areas where there is good-quality, occupied koala habitat.”
Gunnedah koala activist Martine Moran said the strategy completely ignored the north-west’s koala population.
“It is the same old, same old from the state government,” Ms Moran said.
“This new program does not pertain to us at all.
“We saw this a few months ago when they announced the koala strategy – they completely ignored our region then and are doing it again now.”
Ms Moran said she would have liked to see the program be launched statewide.
“To me the decision to focus on the other side of the divide is very strange,” she said.
“If the model the government is using is not suitable to our side of the divide, why not find one that is suitable?
“I think if they were to tweak the model they are using with this program, Gunnedah would tick a lot of their boxes in terms of suitable area.
“Numbers out here are dwindling and if something isn’t done, soon there will be no koalas at all.”
National Parks Association’s (NPA) senior ecologist Dr Oisín Sweeney said while new habitat was welcome, the program was “doomed to fail”.
“On current prices, $20 million invested in land purchase in the Coffs Harbour area would buy you under 1500 hectares,” Dr Sweeny said.
“That’s clearly not enough to save koalas.
“In order to make this investment work, it must be complemented by efforts to protect koala habitat on public land, and proper regulation of tree clearing and urban development.”