Koala mapping data helps us to understand which parts of Redland City need to be left undeveloped if we are to preserve a viable population of koalas.
Despite repeated requests, and research showing that the survival of the Koala Coast koalas are dependent upon the protection of urban bushland, the Redland City Council has not shared its recently completed detailed koala mapping data with the community. Fortunately, Redlands2030 has been able to access mapping data from the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF).
The AKF mapping helps us to understand why the number of koalas has fallen so dramatically throughout Redland City. It also shows the remaining habitat regions which need to be preserved if koalas are to survive.
Unfortunately, some of the best remaining koala habitat regions are also likely to come under pressure from developers. Resolving these competing land use objectives will be a major test for the current Redland City Council which will be facing electors in just over 12 months.
Threats to koalas: habitat or health?
There has been much discussion in the Redlands community about why our koala population is declining: illness (chlamydia), dog attacks, traffic, or habitat loss.
Professor Peter Timms – a leading Queensland microbiologist and expert in koala diseases – has highlighted the imperative of suitable koala habitat and the need to mitigate human induced impacts for its survival. In his Microbiology Australia paper “Chlamydial Infection and Disease in the Koala” he states that “most populations have medium to high levels of chlamydial infection, that is not a major threat to the individual animal when they are in good health. However, if their health is perturbed for any reason (eg stress due to lack of adequate food trees, stress due to overcrowding or human impact, …) then the balance is tipped in favour of the parasite and individual populations can be under the combined threat.”
Where are our koalas?
Council has undertaken its own detailed Koala and Wildlife Habitats mapping program. Hopefully it will identify not only the significant koala habitats as captured by the AKF, but also the remaining refuges of our urban koalas. Despite repeated requests to Council for the mapping information, the data has not been provided.
In lieu of Council’s reluctance to be transparent with Ratepayer’s data, Redlands2030 has looked elsewhere to help gauge the current status of our emblematic marsupial and its habitat.
Today, the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) maps the Redlands Koala Habitat areas … these maps show over 70% of Redlands mainland Koala Habitats as predominately LOST – GONE!
The AKF map and associated table (below) show the percent areas lost since European settlement for each of the major Koala Habitat types that cover each of the 10 Divisions of Redland City Council (RCC).
The AKF map shows Habitat Types as Primary Habitat (green) – capable of supporting high-density koala populations; Secondary Habitat (Class A) (olive) – capable of supporting high to medium-density koala populations; and Secondary Habitat (Class B) (light green) – capable of supporting medium to low density koala populations. See AKF Map Guide for further details.
The below table colours represent – RCC Divisional Areas with over 60% Koala Habitat LOST (red); 20%-60% Habitat LOST (orange); and less than 20% Koala Habitat LOST (yellow).
Though the actual Koala numbers and the location of remaining urban habitat pockets are unknown (we await the results to be released by Council), the evidence shows that the most significant remaining Koala habitat areas are North Stradbroke Island (NSI) and in Division 6 of Redland City Council where some 75% of its habitat area remains uncleared.
In 2008, Redland City Council (RCC) comprised the largest part of Queensland’s Koala Coast and home to the largest urban koala population in Australia. Its then remaining 3,000 Koalas were at potential risk of extinction within 20 years. At the time Council responded with a recovery plan. The Koala Policy and Strategy aimed to take immediate action to recover the existing population to more than 5,000 in the Koala Coast area by 2014.
It will be interesting to learn whether the current Council Koala mapping program shows if there is any recovery towards the targeted 5,000 koala population – let alone whether it was achieved.
Soon, Redland City Council will reveal its new City Plan to direct development in the coming years. Will it enhance recovery or further decimate Redland’s Koala population?
With Governments rhetoric about the need to balance environment and economic outcomes, the evidence from the available mapping is very clear … the balance between the environment and the development footprint is out of kilter – it has gone too far “against” koalas.
Redlands new City Plan 2015 needs to ensure its koala habitat and koala corridors are strongly protected and that its “urban footprint” is carefully considered. Only then can appropriate development areas and appropriate scales of development proceed. Importantly, these decisions need to be evidence based and able to stand the public scrutiny – there is no room for error.
Professor Peter Timms’ scientific awareness highlights the importance of protecting our remaining koala habitats and mitigating human impact.
Residents across the city and those caring for our tourism icon need to be alert to the future of koalas in the Redlands. People (from all over the world) are witnesses to “our” actions and they will judge us on the outcomes of how we protect koalas and koala habitat. Councillor for Division 6, Cr Julie Talty, Chair for Council’s Planning and Development Portfolio, needs to be reminded of this responsibility. Her own Division is one of the last bastions for koala survival in the Redlands.
The balance has already moved too far for any inaction. Cr Julie Talty – with her access to the evidence and the tools needed to deliver the outcome for koalas that the community expects – must act now.
People from across the city should take the time to contact Cr Julie Talty, and confirm the onerous responsibility she carries. Her obligation is even greater given Council’s policy and planning failures to date.
There are no fall back positions and no second chances…the planning for Division 6 must be world class and a giant leap above anything done to date.
The evidence shows that there is little room for any major “residential developments” that eat further into the koala habitat and corridors of Queensland’s Koala Coast.
COMMUNITY ACTION: Contact Councillor Julie Talty with your views on the protection expected for the Redland Koalas and its Habitat.