Koala Recovery Strategy approved and Coastal Koala Plan of Management deferred

Koala conservation: The Port Macquarie-Hastings is home to a nationally significant koala population.
Koala conservation: The Port Macquarie-Hastings is home to a nationally significant koala population.

A road map which aims to reverse the koala population decline in the local government area has got the stamp of approval.

But the wait continues for the progression of the draft Coastal Koala Plan of Management and associated policy changes.

The area’s koala population is estimated at about 2000. The population is in decline.

Five speakers addressed koala management as two reports went before Port Macquarie-Hastings Council’s September meeting.

The survival of the region’s koalas was at a make or break stage now in 2018, the meeting heard.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital clinical supervisor Cheyne Flanagan said we had a window of five years maximum to reverse the decline.

The koala hospital normally sees about 180 koalas at this time of year but the numbers are down to just over 80.

“The time is now to reverse this decline of these nationally significant koalas,” Ms Flanagan said.

“The statement is not based on emotion but scientific fact.”

Dog attack, car strike, habitat loss, disease and fire are among the threats to our koala population.

The graph below shows admissions to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital. Source: Koala Recovery Strategy

The majority of the area’s koalas are located east of the Pacific Highway.

Julie Ho told the meeting that koalas needed protection because they did not evolve to deal with dogs or motor vehicles.

“On the other hand, humans can live almost anywhere,” she said.

Councillors adopted the amended draft Koala Recovery Strategy and council will consider funding the programs and actions as part of development of the 2019-2020 Operational Plan, forward budgets and delivery program.

Consideration will be given to delivering items from the Koala Recovery Strategy through a partnership model.

The strategy identifies issues impacting the koala population and provides actions and guidelines to help in the recovery of the population and assist in managing the impacts.

Recommended actions range from installing koala-proof fencing and koala grids at major intersections shown to be koala black spots to exploring re-populating unoccupied koala habitat on rural lands with the cooperation of landholders.

Cr Sharon Griffiths said the strategy was positive and proactive.

Meanwhile, further consideration of the Coastal Koala Plan of Management, which addresses land management and development in coastal koala habitat areas, was put on hold pending advice on the hierarchy of legislation which has a direct impact on the draft plan.

The regulatory tool, when approved, will be used in development assessment. 

The proposed suite of supporting policy changes would be beneficial in providing a holistic set of planning policy and development controls, the council report said.

Cr Justin Levido said they had to get it right or as right as possible.

“There is absolutely nothing gained if we put something up that within a short period of time faces legal challenge and fails,” he said.

He said there was a myriad of Acts of Parliament, planning controls and koala plans of management and the council needed to work out how it overlapped.

Deputy mayor Lisa Intemann said so many people for so long had been trying to get past site-specific koala plans of management and get to a comprehensive plan of management.

She said by deferring the matter, the council would try to resolve the next layer of difficulties and she really hoped the council could come back with a solution in November.

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