Letter: Koala destruction

I recently read Director Matt Rogers explanation of why the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council are pressing ahead with the removal of approximately 100 hectares of prime and secondary koala habitat and how they will offset that destruction.

PMHC were presented with proof that their original plan for translocation of koalas to somewhere else such as Thrumster would likely result in many koala deaths through car strike, dog attack and diseases brought on by stress as they attempt to return to their previous home. It seems Council now intends to replace the forest as they clear bits at a time and to grow an equivalent amount of trees on an area close by.

Now Mr Rogers points out in his reply to the North Coast Environment Council’s  objections to the clearing of about 100 ha of valuable koala habitat that PMHC will do that gradually in pieces as koala habitat is moved over the 20 year horizon to achieve “no net loss”. (Port News, April 10)

This is the offset process so strongly attacked by NSW Nature Conservation Council and the Australia Koala Federation as it really does not achieve “like for like” and “no net loss” as was promoted by the NSW Government.

Let’s just do a bit of maths on Council’s “sensitive” process. Koalas prefer large trees as the crowns provide more leaves, shade in summer and safety from predators.

PMHC are going to create an offset with seedlings.

The trees they are talking about clearing in this approximately 100 ha. natural eucalypt forest may be anything up to 200 years old and probably with hollows. We know nothing about the environmental value of the offset plantation site. If it does not require clearing of trees to plant new trees and is actually bare of contiguous forest it is plainly unsuitable for growing such forest.

Koalas will pick at saplings but eucalypts take about 20 years minimum to become viable food trees.

Koalas have peculiar feeding habits and choose certain trees at different times of the year according to factors like water content and soil type. 

Firstly the Council will have to collect seed from their present prime habitat and grow seedlings to cover the 100 ha offset area, at considerable cost.

Now let’s say they clear at a rate of 5 ha per year for 20 years. In 20 years time ALL the present vegetation will be cleared and the first 5 ha offset will nearly be ready.

What will the koalas eat over that time as each year another 5 ha is cleared without viable offset?

That is 40 years to replace the staged removal of the habitat of a koala colony in collapse which is already predicted to be extinct in 50 years even without this atrocity.

I ask how can Council, morally and scientifically, even contemplate this just to get bigger jets than the jet service to Melbourne they already have. Are they looking to attract bigger jets from Asia? Well at least whatever tourists come they will be able to look at the 50 lovely fibreglass koalas from the “Hello Koalas” promotion. They could start at Maccas and track them down.

The motion hurriedly passed by the last meeting of the previous council discussed and voted on a different dodgy offset and is therefore no longer valid. The new PMHC councillors need to investigate this whole proposal very thoroughly I believe before saying “Goodbye Koalas”.

John Jeayes, 

Port Macquarie