St George matters with Chris Minns: We must all work together to save the koalas

Chris Minns.
Chris Minns.

NSW politics this week was dominated by koalas. While it would seem self-evident we should do everything in our power to save the threatened animal - some in the State's Parliament do not agree.

It is embarrassing that Australia has allowed koala numbers to become perilously low. Imagine our nation's shame if we do nothing and we lose our koalas forever. Right now, koalas will become extinct in NSW within 30 years without urgent government intervention.

This is not a problem caused by the bushfires alone, although as many as 10,000 - a third of the state's koala population - may have perished from the drought and the fires. On top of the koala deaths, the fires destroyed almost a quarter of the koala habitat on public land.

The images of burned and dying koalas helplessly trapped in the path of an oncoming inferno was a shocking vision of last summer etched into our memories for many years to come. As one academic put it "A bird can fly, a kangaroo can hop very fast, but koalas are slow. They basically just get stuck where they are."

Koala numbers were dwindling before the bushfires. They are suffering due to the loss of their habitat through land clearing for agriculture, development, mining and forestry.

Decades of fragmentation of the forests they call home has caused our koalas to become malnourished. They are also dehydrated as they are unable get adequate moisture from the leaves, forcing them to make a dangerous descent from the trees to drink from taps, bowls and hoses, making them vulnerable to everything from cars to dogs.

A recent NSW parliamentary inquiry heard evidence that the NSW koala population is estimated at around 30,000 but could be as few as 15,000.

The bottom line is this: if we do nothing, we will lose them. The Liberal Government's changes to the planning regime do not stop agriculture on farming land. In many ways it protects it, because it makes it far harder to turn good agricultural land into housing sub-divisions.

The National Party should back these changes or the chances are they'll end up being the endangered species.