FALLING NUMBERS: A whole-of-government approach is recommended to stabilise the koala population in New South Wales.
FALLING NUMBERS: A whole-of-government approach is recommended to stabilise the koala population in New South Wales. Contributed

North Coast focus to help save koalas

KOALA numbers in New South Wales are continuing to fall, prompting a plan of action released by he NSW Chief Scientist, Mary O'Kane.

There are an estimated 36,000 koalas in NSW today, down from millions at the time of European settlement.

NSW is today home to fewer than 10% of the nation's koalas the report reveals.

In response to the decline, Ms O'Kane recommends a whole-of-government koala strategy for NSW with the objective of stabilising and then starting to increase koala numbers.

Actions recommended include improving data on the number, location and occurrence of koalas in NSW, including trends over time, taking advantage of new sensor and communication technologies and data analytics within 12 months.

It also suggests the State Government publish a statewide predictive koala habitat map within three years, with immediate priority given to improving coverage of the north coast.

The Sunday Telegraph reported yesterday private landowners whose properties are deemed critical koala habitat will be made an offer to sell as part of a proposed $10 million strategy to save the species.

The land will go towards creating koala corridors or "stepping stone" reserves as part of a statewide effort to stop the species decline.

Environment Minister Mark Speakman said a three-month consultation program would be rolled out as part of the strategy with regional community information sessions, stakeholder meetings and webinars to be held to allow landowners to provide feedback.

"The independent review proposes 11 recommendations to help develop a strategy that can secure and eventually increase NSW koala numbers," Mr Speakman said.

"We want communities to look at the independent review and provide input to help direct the NSW Government's strategy so we can preserve this iconic species for all generations to come."

Labor Leader Luke Foley said the Baird Government was not prepared to take the hard decisions necessary to save the koala in NSW.

He has committed a future Labor Government to prioritise the creation of national parks that protect the remaining koala populations on the North Coast of NSW.

"Today's Chief Scientist report is a wake up call to Government about the plummeting koala numbers in NSW," he said.

"We face the real prospect of koalas becoming extinct in the wild in our state within the next couple of decades.

"Saving the koala requires tough decisions. Only Labor is prepared to save the forests that are home to our remaining koala populations.

"Many of these forests are already owned by the state government - converting them to national parks is what is required to protect the precious habitat for our dwindling koala populations."

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