OPINION: We need action to save our Koalas now

OPINION: We need action to save our Koalas now

Our beloved Koala population is set to become extinct by 2050. As a member of Parliament, I participate in a number of committees throughout the year that conduct inquiries into issues that impact our state. Along with members from different political parties, I took part in a year-long inquiry where we were responsible for reporting on the actions, policies and funding by the State Government, which is meant to ensure healthy koala populations and habitat.

We travelled the state, observing Koala habitats, we also listened to and questioned a broad range of experts and community members. We were able to really see first-hand the suffering that our much-loved Koalas are enduring and what became clear is that the Berejiklian Government is failing to protect them. Koalas have been in danger of extinction for a number of years and the unprecedented black summer bushfires resulted in an enormous loss of our Koala population and their habitats.

Our committee issued a report that clearly outlined that Koala populations in NSW will become extinct before 2050 unless urgent action is taken to align planning, forestry, land clearing and offsetting policies to ensure that Koala habitats are protected. Our report found that the Berejiklian Government's current Koala strategy fails to meet the NSW Chief Scientist's recommendations regarding a whole of government approach to koala protection and it fails to safeguard koalas, stabilise or grow their population.

Our committee's report issued urgent recommendations that are crucial to the survival of our Koalas, the Berejiklian Government recently responded to this and it is clear that they are not taking action to protect our Koalas. Of the Inquiry's 42 urgent recommendations, the Government has signalled it will only commit to 11 of them.

From being involved in this inquiry, I can tell you that this response is terrible and without further action our Koala population will not be saved. My Labor party colleagues and I, led by our Shadow Minister for Environment, Kate Washington are calling for stronger action to save our Koalas. Even a Liberal Party member of the committee, the Honourable Catherine Cusack MLC, spoke out in Parliament and crossed the floor to vote with us against deeply flawed Government legislation that would have further weakened protections for Koalas. For this honourable act in trying to protect our Koalas, Premier Berejiklian sacked Ms Cusack from her position as a Parliamentary Secretary.

I think we can all agree that none of us want our iconic wild Koalas to be doomed to extinction, we want our grandchildren and future generations to know we implemented measures to protect them.

There is no time to waste, the Government must take strong action now or our Koala population will be extinct in a matter of decades. If this issue continues to be ignored, part of Premier Berejiklian's legacy will be the extinction of Koalas in NSW.