CONCERNED community groups have taken action in the hope to save 200 hectares of vital koala habitat at Lake Innes.
Residents organised an ePetition to request the NSW government to consider purchasing the swathe of land at 147 Ruins Way to protect the unique koala habitat from future development.
The ePetition closed on Tuesday (November 23) and received 24,970 signatures from residents across NSW in just one month.
The petition was tabled in the NSW Parliament on Wednesday (November 24) afternoon.
"This ePetition has received widespread support and interest from thousands of passionate people who want to see this land saved from development in the interest of protecting valuable koala habitat," member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams said.
"Because the ePetition attracted more than 20,000 signatures, it was announced by the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.
"I am advised that the subject of the ePetition will be debated on Thursday 17th February next year when Parliament returns."
Author, arborist, conservationist and wildlife rescuer Kailas Wild also started a change.org petition calling on the NSW Environment Minister and Treasurer Hon Matt Kean to help secure the land as koala habitat.
Mr Wild often assists in rescuing injured koalas from trees and said the 200 hectare block of land is vital to the survival of local koala populations.
"Climbing trees are just some of the lengths we go to and why it's so important we preserve remaining intact core habitat," he said.
Mr Wild has rescued a number of koalas after road accidents and dog attacks as well as caring for koalas suffering from conjunctivitis.
He also witnessed firsthand the devastation of the 2019/2020 bushfires and the impacts this had on koala populations.
Bushfires, animal attacks and disease are not the only challenges local koala populations face. Land development is also posing a threat to their survival.
The land at Lake Innes is broken down into four blocks and has been earmarked for potential residential living, university accommodation, eco-tourism resort development or biodiversity off-setting for development.
Chair of Koala Conservation Australia Sue Ashton said if the land is developed, it will be detrimental to the region's wild koalas.
"I am on record saying that if we lose this land to development, Port Macquarie will lose its urban wild koala population, the largest on the east coast of Australia," she said.
Spokesperson for Guulagu Koala Custodians Arlene Mehan agrees with protecting the land for local koala populations.
"The Koala is important to all Birpai people, but for individuals whose totem is Guula, there is a cultural responsibility to work actively for koala conservation," she said.
"Traditional ecological knowledge proves the interruption of koala habitat not only impacts the immediate population but has repercussions that extend into other areas."
I congratulate the Koala Custodians group and thank the community who got behind this important petition.Leslie Williams
The Guulagu Koala Custodians group was formed after the devastation of the 2019 bushfires to further education about the critical status of koala population, including the role that traditional ecological knowledge and land management practices play in contemporary koala conservation.
Members of the Shelly Beach Residents Action Group have also added their voice to the mix.
"Port Macquarie-Hastings Council states in their Koala Recovery Strategy that habitat loss is the core reason for the decline in our local koala population and in this document council forecasts that in nine short years there won't be any koalas living east of the pacific highway unless core koala habitat is protected," member of the Shelly Beach Residents Action Group Sara Phillips said.
Mrs Williams, who has voiced her support and urged the NSW government to purchase the land, congratulated those who signed the petition.
"I congratulate the Koala Custodians group and thank the community who got behind this important petition requesting that the NSW Government purchase this land and protect it in perpetuity via a Nature Reserve or other secure, non-reversible tenure," she said.
The subject matter of the petition and the Member who lodged it will be published in the Votes and Proceedings and the terms of each petition will be printed in Hansard.
A copy of every petition received is forwarded to the Minister responsible for the subject contained in the petition and is required to provide a response within 35 days.
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