Koalas in Sutherland Shire face increasing threats, but are not afforded the same government protection as those in adjoining areas.
The shire is not among local government areas listed in the State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala Habitat Protection) 2021.
A study commissioned by the Sydney Basin Koala Network, which is managed by the Total Environment Centre, and prepared by Biolink pointed out the omission.
"Despite a history of koala occupancy, the presence of an Area of Regional Koala Significance and Sutherland being flagged in the [government's] NSW Koala Strategy as requiring immediate investment, Sutherland is not listed in the SEPP," the report said.
"[This] means protections for koalas provided by the SEPP do not apply in the Sutherland LGA.
"Sutherland Shire Council has formed a Sutherland Koala Steering Committee to provide strategic direction on koala conservation and intends to prepare a Koala Management Plan, however it would not be able to be finalised and enforced until Sutherland LGA is listed in the koala SEPP."
Specific findings for the shire were released as part of a report into the Sydney Basin Bioregion, which stretches from Nowra to Nelson Bay and almost to Mudgee.
The report said the shire LGA supported a small koala population.
"Although there are 644ha where koalas have persisted in the same places for at least three generations [a generation is the average age of reproducing adults, about six years], it is of concern that there has been substantial loss of areas of persistence across the LGA since 2010.
"Some gains and losses of areas of persistence is to be expected in dynamic populations. However it is concerning in Sutherland that loss outweighs gain by two fold, indicating a loss of long-standing, breeding koala populations."
The report said koalas had been sighted from Barden Ridge to Loftus, Woronora, Heathcote and Engadine and in the Heathcote and Royal National Parks, and were connected to the expanding numbers in Campbelltown, shown by genetic analysis.
About 6.5 per cent of vegetation in the shire was Preferred Koala Habitat and was contiguous with the Campbelltown LGA.
"Koalas in Sutherland Shire are vulnerable to the challenges of living near urban areas," the report said.
"Recorded vehicle strikes have increased from 1 to 4 to 20 over the last three koala generations respectively. This is a serious concern as it only takes a 3 per cent loss of koalas per year to drive population decline."
Sutherland Shire was one of six focal areas of significance identified as key to improving the fate of koalas in the Sydney Basin.
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