Koala protection plan criticised for lack of action on cars and dogs
Each year cars kill about 300 koalas in the state’s south-east and dogs kill about 75, according to Queensland’s Department of Environment and Science.
The draft conservation strategy proposes a target of reducing koala injuries and deaths from car strikes by 25 per cent, on 10 roads yet to be chosen.
However, the strategy only suggests updating Queensland Transport’s fauna-sensitive road design manual.
It does not recommend dog bans in residential estates close to critical koala populations, but promises to prevent land given a new land-use code – koala habitat – being cleared.
The strategy is expected to be ratified in Parliament in 2020.
It identifies Koala Priority Areas (in blue cross-hatches below) from south Noosa and Maleny, in a band running from Dayboro to Ipswich, behind the Gold Coast and between Cleveland and Logan.
The strategy says land clearing will not be approved in these areas, however developers can apply for koala land offsets and fire clearing exemptions.
As Brisbane Times reported in March, 95 per cent of developers elected to pay a total $4.6 million up front in 2018-19 rather than rehabilitate another piece of land as a koala offset.
The Department of Environment and Science promises a new policy where land offset for koala habitat will be “a last resort” under the koala conservation plan.
The department said councils would judge applications that do not include koala habitat inside a KPA.
If the koala habitat is outside the KPAs, the development application will be judged by the Queensland government using the new koala habitat code, the department said.
It is unclear who judges the potential clearing of koala habitat inside KPAs.
The state government says it will prevent clearing of all koala habitat within KPA, using the new code.
Councillor Wendy Boglary from Redland City, where koala numbers have dropped by 80 per cent in the past decade, said bushland that was protected under the previous mapping is excluded from the proposed new koala habitat mapping.
“Overall in south-east Queensland there has been an increase in koala areas and within these areas there is ‘planned’ greater protection, however at this stage my concern is that the protected bushland area in Redlands has decreased,” Cr Boglary said.
Professor Carrick said that allowed councils to approve applications because the bushland was no longer koala habitat.
He said he had noticed previously-protected bushland excluded in Redlands, Moreton and Ipswich under the new mapping.
The Environment Department said the councils did not nominate these areas.
Experts have until December 22 to make comments on the new mapping.
“This is a ridiculously short time frame for such an important matter where the devil is in the detail,” Professor Carrick said.
“It must urgently extend this date to at least the date for submissions regarding the strategy overall, that is January 31, 2020.”
Tony Moore is a senior reporter at the Brisbane Times