Ballina MP Tamara Smith is urging people to sign a petition to protect vital koala habitat.
Ballina MP Tamara Smith is urging people to sign a petition to protect vital koala habitat.

COMMENT: Our native icons are under threat

KOALAS are one of our most precious and iconic species but as the planet warms and extreme bushfires become more frequent the impact on our already vulnerable koala populations and their habitat has become dire.

Australia’s record of biodiversity protection is appalling, with the level of mammal species extinction being among the worst of any country in the world.

But a current trajectory of extinction for Koalas in NSW is a reality post the last bushfire season.

Ecologists have estimated that more than 5,000 koalas in New South Wales are likely to have died in the recent bushfires, and their numbers may have dropped by as much as two-thirds in less than 20 years.

This places NSW Koala populations as endangered despite the fact that under Federal law they are listed only as ‘vulnerable’.

Even though the bushfires have devastated koala populations here on the north coast, the Environment Protection Authority recently granted licences to the Forestry Corporation to log burnt country from three state forests on the Richmond River lowlands.

People might mistakenly think that loggers going in to salvage burnt forests can’t hurt but the reality is that injured and isolated koalas are still present and logging machines are not the arms of support we need to be going in to these areas post bushfire.

It appears that no ecological assessments have been conducted by the EPA before granting the logging licences.

And yes the irony is not lost on me that they are meant to be an agency that protects the environment.

Our community has been advocating for the protection of koalas and their habitat for many decades.

We are calling for an emergency endangered species declaration to be made for koalas in NSW and for the NSW Environment Minister to immediately disclose what restrictions and protections the EPA has put in place to ensure critical koala habitat is not further destroyed. Sign the petition at tamarasmith.com.au/koalas_under_fire.