After acknowledging an 80% decline in the number of koalas in parts of south east Queensland from 1996 to 2014, State Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles announced additional koala protection funding of $12 million over four years with an expert panel “to kick-off discussions on how best to move forward to better protect koalas”.
Redlands resident Margaret Hardy was outraged by this inadequate response to Queensland’s koala crisis. Here’s what she wrote to the Minister.
Letter to Steven Miles about koalas
Dear Minister Miles
It is with both despair and outrage that I write to you today regarding koalas.
After your withholding of a vital scientific report for months, you have now decided that Queensland needs another strategy and yet another panel of experts to save our iconic koala from extinction.
Minister Miles, I have lived in a koala area in Redland City for more than 30 years. I used to have koalas in my street and in my back yard. No more. I live in an established area with no large scale development pressures but bit by bit our local koala corridor has been decimated by poor planning decisions.
You claim that what we have been doing for years has not worked. That habitat protection has not worked. So we must consult further; although the science has been on the table for years? We must consult further to corral our koalas into designated areas to ensure their survival?
Minister Miles – you seem to have missed the point, so I shall clarify for you. Firstly, habitat protection has not failed. It has yet to be implemented. Allowing developers to fell mature food trees and replace them with a cash donation to a council or a handful of seedlings a couple of kilometres away, does in no way protect habitat. Habitat protection is saying NO to the developers. NO – you cannot fell those trees. NO you cannot build there.
Secondly, habitat protection requires preventing the destruction of food and shelter trees in koala habitat areas, as well as the protection of the open spaces through which koalas move between their territorial trees. This includes both urban and rural areas.
Finally, there are two distinct populations of koalas – bushland and urban. They range widely across their territory and necessarily interbreed to maintain strong genetic diversity. If you isolate populations of koalas you will damage this fine genetic balance further threatening the species.
Examples of failed habitat protection are plentiful.
- Planning legislation has been ignored for years. Just today Redland City Council is retrospectively adjusting some habitat overlays in the planning scheme. The previous council approved building on sites that should have been protected by the overlay but they did not. So now they are retrofitting the planning scheme to cover this blatant disregard.
- The State approval of a Priority Development Area for Toondah Harbour will extinguish the colony of koalas at G.J. Walter Park, Cleveland. This decision was made at the request of council by a former government but you have failed to reverse that decision.
- A former Labor government lifted the koala protection from the Barro Superquarry site at Mt Cotton; an area that supports a population of at least 26 koalas. If they don’t die of starvation they will choke to death from the dust.
- An area at Redland Bay was chosen for development but had a high value koala habitat rating at State level, that prevented habitat destruction. So council and the developer conspired to have the level of rating lowered and away went the trees.
- Just last week I watched footage of mature koala food trees being felled by a bulldozer at Victoria Point, to build a footpath through a conservation area. There was further footage on the major news channels of koalas sitting in a narrow corridor of trees, watching as their adjacent habitat was clear felled by machinery, in the Moreton Regional Council area. Both these actions were approved under planning legislation. That is not habitat protection.
So you see Minister Miles – we have never had any real habitat protection. What we have had is a range of token gestures that have been consistently over-ridden by State, Local government and developers – day by day; year after year.
Now what is needed is your support for the Australian Koala Foundation’s proposed Koala Protection Act and an immediate moratorium across the State on the clearing of any koala habitat as well as the protection of movement corridors.
If you fail to act with urgency then not only will Queensland be seen worldwide as the State that wrecked the Great Barrier Reef but also the State that annihilated koalas. Is this really the best we can be?
What do you think the Government should do?
If you think the Government should get serious about koala protection, send them a message.
It could be a long letter like Margaret’s, or just a simple plea to get serious about habitat protection.
Contact details for Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles:
07 3239 0844
If you email the Environment Minister it would be a good idea to send a copy cc to other key ministers and the three members of state parliament who represent the Redlands. Here are their contact details.
Published by Redlands2030 – 9 June 2016