Improving the public service, vital for koalas

Although its ideas for the Snowy River are less than appealing, Premier O’Farrell has recently announced reforms to create a more professional and accountable public service, with the intention of rewarding talent, not time in, the public service.

Up on the tablelands, Cooma -Monaro Council have received funds from the Environment Trust to undertake koala surveys. According to OEH Koala Recovery coordinator Chris Allen the surveys will enable them to ” . . . map the distribution of koalas as well as the eucalypt communities that may be important.'”and “ . . . Once the surveys are completed we will analyse factors such as temperature, altitude, topography, geology, rainfall and disturbance history and these results will be used to shape the Cooma-Monaro Shire Council Koala Plan of Management.”

Coincidently the first tablelands koala surveys undertaken by Chris Allen were in 1997, the same year soil landscape mapping was released for coastal forests. Mapping for the tablelands was produced in 2000 but it remains off the OEH’s list of factors to analyse.

Down on the coast the Southern Rivers CMA have been talking about focusing their koala recovery efforts in the Wapengo, Murrah and Coolagalite areas. Although exactly what they are proposing remains unclear, catchment coordinator Don McPhee reaffirmed that their ideas remain based on the notion that soils in these areas are the same as those around Gunnedah, the ‘Koala Capital of the World‘.

Regrettably this approach will require elevating the CMA’s own land capability rating in its koala recovery areas from the current Class 3 and lower up to Class 1, prime agricultural land but, there will be some in the community who don’t mind.

O’Farrell has also announced reforms to improve the integrity of the public service and related issues are what sort of information the public service should be working from at a local scale and what information from other bioregions should be used to improve local outcomes.

For example, and although there is no evidence that koalas have used them and only luck and location has kept them alive since planting in 1999, the former primary koala feed species Forest Red Gum (E. tereticornis) has grown at a reasonable rate in a few locations on the Towamba River soil landscape in the Murrah catchment, as indicated in the snap below.  

Outside of the bioregion and because ‘ Soil landscape mapping involves the identification of relationships between soil properties and distribution and environmental attributes including lithology, terrain, biota and climate‘  research undertaken in the Southern Brigalow Interim Bioregion, where Gunnadah is located, could be useful locally to provide more precise and objective results.

Of course injecting any science into the agencies is not easy but I have proposed to the CMA that they extend the koala survey grid onto private land and employ a flexible but still scientific approach. No response of course but Don McPhee did indicate that they now had a way to expand their efforts, beyond the local area.

Forest Red Gum (E.tereticornis) planted during 1999 in an ideal location. Such ideal locations are very rare.

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