The NSW Government has released a new Koala Strategy with funding of nearly $45 million over three years but critics claim more research is needed.
Only $8.9 million, or 20 per cent, of the total budget is dedicated to funding research.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian released the strategy which was part of “an ambitious goal of securing threatened species in the wild for the next 100 years".
However, Australian Koala Foundation’s CEO, Deborah Tabart, said the entire strategy was useless.
“Eighty per cent of the Australian Koala forests are gone - why do we have to continue to cut down bushland when there is so much damaged land in the first place?"
"[These announcements]… encourage our citizens to believe that everything is now okay,” Ms Tabart said.
With the funding focusing primarily on habitat protection, Dr William Ellis of the School of Agriculture at the University of Queensland said: “We can’t really develop a koala habitat database without the tools to work out where the habitat is likely to be in the future, and the universities are the best places to find these tools.”
Koala populations are under increasing pressure and have declined in NSW by an estimated 26% in the last 15-20 years. Without significant intervention, this level of decline is likely to continue.
The 2008 NSW ‘Recovery plan for the koala’ report provides the most current koala population estimate of between 1,000 and 10,000, while the NSW National Parks Association has estimated that the national icon has disappeared from 75% of their former range.
The strategy sets out the first phase of actions to stabilise priority koala populations in NSW. It includes setting aside more than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat as new koala reserves and transferring over 4000 hectares of native forest on the Mid North Coast with koala habitat to the national parks estate.
Funding of $20 million from the NSW Environmental Trust will be used to purchase land with prime koala habitat that can be permanently reserved as national parks.
There is a priority to fix road-kill hotspots across NSW, create a network of koala and wildlife hospitals and deliver a single wildlife rescue call number.
The strategy document, released by the Office of Environment and Heritage, listed four pillars:
- Koala habitat conservation
- Conservation through community action
- Safety and health of koala populations
- Building our knowledge and understanding
Office of Environment and Heritage spokeswoman Angela Read, said the $8.9 million in research funding was for the Building our Knowledge and Understanding pillar.