Koalas and the non-compliance scandal

The Feds have recently released their ‘ accreditation – standards- framework’ as part of their efforts to palm off environmental responsibilities to the States. The NSW Nature Conservation Council responded expressing their belief that the States cannot be trusted to meet federal environmental standards.

Confirming why the States cannot be trusted, an article in the Bega District News provides an update on what NSW are doing with the Biodiversity Funds for koalas.

According to OE&H spokesperson Mike Saxon, they will be undertaking surveys until the new year when they intend to ‘rejig’ the logging moratorium area. While it’s clear that the agencies would prefer a simple approach, the issues around their lack of trustworthiness are closely associated with the failure to meet even the most rudimentary standards.

Should further logging be the path they choose, the NSW Police will be the ones enforcing the right to log so it seems sensible to elevate the issues to their rightful level of importance – a scandal.

From that perspective, it makes sense not to have any community input but adds to the risk that ‘dirty laundry’ will be aired in public. Letters to the editor are one of the few forums but sometimes they are shy, so I’m interested to see if the publish the following.

 

 

Dear Editor,

While grateful for any information from the various groups responsible for decisions on spending the Biodiversity Fund for the ‘Bega Valley koalas’ (BDN Nov 2), Mr Saxon is quite unbelievable and official OE&H policy is that koalas are everywhere.

The koala surveys began over five years ago and expert advise at that time pointed to the fact that koalas generally occupy around 50% of the available habitat and on average, a breeding koala will occupy a home range for about 6 years.

The only apparent reason for the surveys is to once again threaten koalas and destroy their habitat with unsustainable logging. Coincidentally the utility of the survey methods does provide the opportunity to incorporate a ‘timber inventory’ that Forests NSW were supposed to undertake by 2001. If this were happening Forests NSW could claim to be complying with one part of the Eden Regional Forest Agreement.

The ‘forests in poor condition’ that ‘could be areas that have failed to regenerate properly’, were discussed with Forests NSW, Commonwealth and State representatives during the Forest Resources and Management Systems committee assessment in 1997. The committee’s report highlighted the need for improved inventory and growth information but Forests NSW have not complied with this requirement.

The changes to soil conditions that lead to poor regeneration are the reason koalas became extinct on agricultural land and are closely associated with the other threat to koalas, extensive canopy die-back. Forests NSW refuses to release their information on die-back because it confirms a lack of compliance with the RFA, the Australian Forestry Standard and the NSW Forestry Act.

So it seems quite scandalous that, in the face of this non-compliance, Federal funds are to be expended on attempts to remedy forest decline in State forests and National Parks(?). This seems particularly the case given the NSW Government doesn’t support scientifically based community initiatives aimed at improving forest health and doesn’t consider soil limitations or the factors behind them. Indeed the state approach stipulates natural regeneration and private landholders cannot get funds to plant trees.

Mr Saxon asks the question, “Should we be considering koalas as a high-value asset in need of similar protection to forest and property?”. My answer is yes but fact is, protection for forests and koalas requires acknowledging, understanding and addressing the threats, irrespective of Federal funding and as opposed to business as usual.

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