Port Stephens push to have koalas listed as critically endangered receives national support

A koala and her joey at Oakvale Wildlife Park.
A koala and her joey at Oakvale Wildlife Park.

A push by a Port Stephens delegation to have koalas listed as critically endangered has received strong support from the nationally recognised Australian Koala Foundation.

The Examiner reported in its August 5 edition on the establishment of the Koala Koalition EcoNetwork Port Stephens, a delegation of representatives from a number of community and environmental groups, seeking urgent action from Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley.

In response to the federal government's inquiry into the potential status upgrade of the koala from 'vulnerable' to 'endangered', Australian Koala Foundation chairman Deborah Tabart said the proposed changes are far too limited and not backed by the action needed to save the koala population.

"In 2012, when koalas were listed as vulnerable the government was expected to write a Koala Recovery Plan, which would have given the government seven years to protect koalas, but the plan has been delayed by both sides of politics," Ms Tabart said.

"Had that plan been implemented, it would have meant that both the state government and Port Stephens Council would have had to 'refer' any development in the LGA to the federal government."

The Australian Koala Foundation has a long history with Port Stephens, having handed over its Koala Habitat Atlas maps to Port Stephens mayor in around 1996 when the koala population was substantial.

"Me and my team spent weeks and months on field work identifying koala habitats that should have been protected under the Koala Plan of Management which still exists today," Ms Tabart said.

"Whilst I appreciate it sounds fantastic to have the koala upgraded to either endangered or critically endangered, it has been our experience that by then, it could be too late.

"Councils and the community have failed to recognise that the federal listing should have all that was necessary to protect koalas, particularly in Port Stephens.

"As always politics get in the way but I hope that the listing is made swiftly and that true action to protect feed trees in Port Stephens."

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