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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 155

Senator Bob Brown asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, upon notice, on 24 September 2008:

With reference to the seminar at the University of Newcastle on 23 September 2008, ‘The koala: Future of an icon’, and in particular the associated paper by Dr Stephen Jackson:

(1)   What is the Government’s plan to ensure the prosperity of koalas and their survival in regions where they persist.

(2)   What are the chances of the koala becoming extinct, locally in such regions or nationally.

(3)   What review of the status of the koala has the Government undertaken, when and by whom.

(4)   What possible impact will imminently proposed logging of forests in south east New South Wales and East Gippsland have on koalas, and in particular logging near Bermagui.

Senator Wong (Minister for Climate Change and Water) —The Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:

(1)   The Australian Government is committed to ensuring the conservation of koalas across their natural range. The 1998 National Koala Conservation Strategy (the Strategy) was developed by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, in recognition of the importance of the koala to Australia’s natural and cultural heritage. It was intended to provide a nationally coordinated approach to koala conservation in order to retain viable populations in the wild throughout the koala’s natural range. In 2006, the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council (NRMMC) agreed to review the Strategy. The review is being overseen by a Steering Committee, chaired by the Commonwealth Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts and comprising representatives from the range states (NSW, Vic, SA, and QLD) and the Australian Koala Foundation. To contribute to this review, the Australian Government has funded an evaluation of progress made in implementing the Strategy. The report from this evaluation has been provided to the Steering Committee as input to the Strategy review. To support a revised Strategy the Steering Committee will also develop an implementation plan to provide clear directions, priorities and timetables to meet the objectives of the strategy. It is expected the Steering Committee will provide its recommendations to the NRMMC in 2009.

(2)   & (3) Under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992, the koala is listed as vulnerable in the South Eastern Queensland Bioregion, and common elsewhere in the State. In New South Wales, the koala is listed as vulnerable, however the ‘Hawks Nest and Tea Gardens’ and the ‘Pittwater Local Government Area’ populations are listed as endangered under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. The koala was listed as rare under the South Australian National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972, however it was removed from the list in its most recent revision. The koala is not listed as threatened under the Australian Capital Territory Nature Conservation Act 1980 nor the Victorian Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988. The koala has been nominated twice for listing as nationally threatened under the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 (ESP Act) and once under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). The most recent assessment was in 2006 under the EPBC Act. On each occasion the advice of the relevant independent scientific committee (Endangered Species Scientific Subcommittee and the Threatened Species Scientific Committee (TSSC)) was that while the species was subject to conservation pressures and that some local populations had declined, the koala did not meet the criteria for listing as threatened at the national level. This advice was accepted by the former ministers (Hill and Campbell) and the koala was not listed. On the Threatened Species Scientific Committee’s recommendation, the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts has placed the koala on the Finalised Priority Assessment List for the assessment period commencing 1 October 2008. The TSSC will now undertake a new assessment of the koala’s conservation status and advise the Minister if the koala should be listed as a nationally threatened species under the EPBC Act. The assessment will be completed by 30 September 2010.

(4)   The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry has provided the following answer to this question: There are a number of instruments that provide protection for threatened flora and fauna. Clause 57 of the Regional Forest Agreement for the Eden Region of NSW states that: ‘the Parties agree that the Comprehensive, Adequate and Representative Reserve System, actions under the New South Wales Biodiversity Strategy, Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (NSW) and the Endangered Species Protection Act 1992 (Commonwealth), Forestry and National Parks Estate Act 1998 (NSW) and the application of a range of management strategies, management plans and the Integrated Forestry Operations Approval will provide for the protection of rare or threatened flora and fauna species and ecological communities.’ The koala is listed as vulnerable under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, and therefore is provided protection under the instruments listed above. Victoria has specific forest management practices for managing the impact of timber harvesting on koala populations in East Gippsland. Within East Gippsland, known resident koala populations are included within Special Protection Zone areas. Timber harvesting is not permitted within Special Protection Zones.