THE cute and cuddle koala threatened to tear apart the NSW Coalition, so what is it that's got the Nationals so angry they were prepared to grind the government to a halt?
The Nationals declared they would not support government legislation, effectively placing them on the crossbench, until the issue was resolved - however, the party backed down where Premier Gladys Berejiklian told them all Nationals ministers would have to resign from cabinet to sit on the crossbench.
The koala habitat laws were passed back in December, on the advice of a parliamentary sub-committee featuring Nationals ministers, and have been in place since March.
The Nationals say the Liberals are not listening to their concerns about the new State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP), which they claim will severely restrict the ability of farmers to go about their business.
NSW Nationals leader John Barilaro said farmers would have to conduct a koala survey to build a feed shed or a driveway on their property without a koala study.
However, Planning Minister Rob Stokes denied his colleague's claims and said the laws only had a significant impact on development applications submitted to council - something farmers rarely do.
"You can erect farm sheds, pour driveways, clear fence lines and engage in any routine agricultural practice that has occurred for generations without the need for development consent or a koala study," Mr Stokes said.
"Barilaro also said noxious weeds are listed as core koala habitat. Again, this is incorrect. There are no noxious weeds on the tree species list."
Nevertheless, The Nationals have proposed the following changes to the laws:
- Ensure the definition of 'core' koala habitats includes thresholds for koala presence, verified records and highly suitable koala habitat.
- Include only high use and significant use koala tree species consistent with the Koala Habitat Information Base Technical Guide.
- Increase the number of core koala trees species from 10 to 39 (it currently sits at 123)
- A clear and reasonable definition of highly suitable koala habitat. The old SEPP required a 30 per cent threshold of tree species, the new SEPP proposes 15 per cent and the Nationals propose a 30 per cent threshold based on the increase of tree species.
- The decoupling of Private Native Forestry from the Koala SEPP.
- Rural regulated land and agricultural production should come under the land management framework, operating outside of the SEPP.
- Local councils must be required to undertake on-ground surveys in areas of proposed core koala habitat on private land.
- The costs of survey work must be borne by local councils, including costs associated with an independent survey commissioned by a landholder.
- Councils must be required to amend areas of core koala habitat based on landholder surveys provided these are consistent with methods in the Guidelines.
- The survey methods must be the same for landholders and Councils and be clearly set out in the Guidelines.