Premier The Honourable Anna Bligh, and Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation The Honourable Andrew McNamara released a joint statement Wednesday 5 August 2008. It reads
Tighter planning controls and dog laws,
stronger protection of key habitats and
an expanded network of road crossings
are among options to be considered as the Bligh Government confronts a crisis facing koalas in southeast Queensland. Premier Anna Bligh said new research showed the population of koalas in the wild was directly linked to the animals' movement through urban areas and urgent action was needed to slow the dramatic mortality rate. This information has come to light since the introduction in 2006 of the Government's Koala Plan and means more radical moves are needed to stop the extinction of koalas in SEQ.
'We have been working to address this problem through initiatives such as facilitating greater involvement of the EPA in development approvals, road crossings and education and awareness campaigns with Councils,' said Ms Bligh. 'We already have some of the tightest koala planning controls in the country however this research makes it clear even more needs to be done. 'It would be a tragedy if future generations were not able to see this much loved animal in the wild. 'I have fond memories from my own childhood of seeing koalas in their natural habitats and I will do everything I can do to make sure future generations of children are not denied this opportunity. 'It cant' be put into the too hard basket. We need to act and we need to act now. 'This new research indicates the koala population in southeast Queensland is approaching the point of no return - we face total loss of koalas within 20 years if koalas' movement patterns are not addressed.' Ms Bligh said a top-level taskforce comprising scientific experts, conservation groups, developers, State Government and local councils will be formed to recommend action. She said the RSPCA will also be invited to represent pet owners. 'I will be asking this group to think outside the square and look at a further range of options to protect this much loved iconic animal,' Ms Bligh said. 'I will ask them to look at measures such as:
Protecting key koala habitat from further development
Road funding to provide more koala crossings and signage to warn drivers to slow down
Banning dogs in new developments that are seen as vital movement paths for koalas
Mandating that only koala-friendly fences, with gaps to allow ease of movement through yards, can be installed around new houses
Ban on clearing habitat trees in new development areas
The Minister for Sustainability, Climate Change and Innovation, Mr Andrew McNamara said despite more than 80% of all land in SEQ being protected from urban development and 120,000 hectares of SEQ being specifically covered by the Koala Plan - the koala population continued to decline.
He said the joint mapping survey by consultants GHD for the Environmental Protection Agency and Moreton Bay Regional Council showed a freefall in the Pine Rivers' urban koala population density of 46% over the past six years.
An EPA report released last year showed numbers had dropped 26% on the Koala Coast since 1999.
'The new data reinforces that dog attacks, car strikes and loss of habitat were the three main killers of koalas, rather than disease, and these are the issues we need to look at,' Mr McNamara said.
Contact: Premier's office 3224 4500
This media release ironically stands juxtaposed against Premier Bligh's recent release of 40,000 hectares of bushland for development - some in core koala areas - despite the protestations of conservationists.
There are many issues to be resolved to protect the koala in its natural habitat. Fauna friendly road crossings with directed exclusion fencing towards the crossing have to be a mandated - set in legislation - and even retrospective actions where road kill indicates. Tunnel lengths are a concern.
These targeted actions and relevant legislation are an essential component of ALL documentation in the REVIEW of the SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND REGIONAL PLAN - expected before December 2008.
ENSURE YOU HAVE YOUR SAY IN PLANNING YOUR FUTURE AND THE FUTURE OF SEQ.
Brisbane's Courier Mail headlines: Fears southeast's koala population could disappear within 20 years
Australian Koala Foundation's Deborah Tabart OAM said dogs and cars were not the lead killers of koalas as the Government suggested.
"The post mortems of 700 koalas earlier this year showed koalas are now starving to death due to loss of food and the disease rates are going up," she said. "These (proposals) will do nothing for koalas; it's meaningless."
Ms Tabart said the state was simply panicking ahead of a Federal Government review of its koala strategy.
A leading researcher says the State Government cannot afford to ignore the impact that disease is having on the koala population in south-east Queensland.
The Government says it has established a task force to look at new ways to protect the species, which may include restrictions on dogs in some areas, more koala tunnels under roads and tightening development controls.
Australian Wildlife Hospital spokesman, Dr Jon Hanger, says a number of strategies have been introduced on a state and federal level over the past 10 years but none have had a significant impact.. Further comments from abc.net.au.
Responsible pet owners whose dogs are restrained or contained are not responsible for koala decline.
Brisbane Times reported strongly the following story. Koala protection laws 'worthless'by Gabrielle Dunlevy.
Proposed new laws to protect South-East Queensland's vanishing koala population, which could include limits on dogs, have been condemned as worthless by conservationists.
The state government today released a report showing the rapidly developing region's koala population could be gone within 20 years.
The survey by consultants GHD for the Environmental Protection Agency and Moreton Bay Regional Council showed the urban koala population in that area had declined 46 per cent over the past six years.
A task force will now look at drastic measures including banning dogs in new residential areas, phasing out dog ownership in existing residential areas, and mandating koala-friendly fences for homes.
Premier Anna Bligh said today tougher action was needed.
"I understand that there will be a big debate about some of these issues, but I'm not going to stand by and watch the koala population of southeast Queensland simply dwindle into oblivion," Ms Bligh said.
But the Australian Koala Foundation's Deborah Tabart said the move was purely political, with the state government hoping to avoid the repercussions of a federal government review of its koala strategy.
Ms Tabart, who is on the federal government's steering committee, was today invited to join the state government's task force but refused in protest.
"This is panic stations by the Queensland government," she told AAP.
"They want the public to be deluded into thinking that they are doing a good job so there's no constraints put on them from the federal government."
Ms Tabart said dogs and cars were not the lead killers of koalas as the government suggested.
"The post mortems of 700 koalas earlier this year showed koalas are now starving to death due to loss of food and the disease rates are going up," she said.
"These (proposals) will do nothing for koalas, it's meaningless."
Wildlife Preservation Society spokesman Simon Baltais said the government could take meaningful action by legislating to conserve vital habitats.
"We've kept saying all along that if you don't address the issue of habitat protection you are going to lose them," Mr Baltais said.
"Unfortunately it is a case of 'We told you so'."
Opposition environment spokesman Dave Gibson said the crackdown on dog owners was a smokescreen to shield plans to build more suburbs in green belts.
"Everyone is sick of Anna Bligh's double standards about saving the environment, but then doing nothing to stop the destruction of our natural bushland for more and more ugly housing developments where koala habitat is clear-felled," Mr Gibson said.
Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) executive director Greg Hallam joined the chorus of critics.
"Dogs are an issue up to a point, but the bigger issue is that we're taking away the koalas' habitat," he told AAP.
"There's an elephant in the room, and this is sort of like a nice diversion."
RSPCA Queensland chief executive officer Mark Townend (Townend) was worried the dog ban was a knee-jerk reaction.
"We know that with education, these groups (dog owners and wildlife) can live happily ever after," Mr Townend said.