A healthy environment for koalas – necessary for community and business

NSW Minister for Planning and Women, the Hon. Pru Goward MP has announced more powers will be given to the Land and Environment Court to ‘ impose tough new sanctions on those who breach development conditions and damage the environment’.  According to Minister Goward “ . . . These new powers will make potential offenders think twice about putting profit before compliance and environmental responsibility.” The Minister went on to say “ . . . Carrying out unapproved development, breaching noise or pollution restrictions and not conducting environmental monitoring correctly are among the many offences to which the new orders can apply.”

Also this week, the NSW government introduced its Marine Estate Management Bill (2014). The aim is to provide for ‘effective and integrated management of the whole marine estate for the first time in NSW.’ The bill sets out the broad framework for marine estate management, and ” . . . specific detail about how areas of the marine estate will be managed, for example marine parks and aquatic reserves, will be included in the underlying regulation and management plans and will be informed by threat and risk assessment.”

The Minister for Primary Industries and Minister for the Environment will have joint responsibility for the new Act, both playing a role in managing the marine estate. Of course it is assumed that ” . . . The use, management and condition of the land and soil resources in a catchment are directly relevant to the condition of streams and surface water quality.’  (M. Tulau, 1997)

The map below, adapted from Forestry’s  ‘Eden region predisposition to forest decline’, illustrates varying degrees of  forest ecosystem decline in the  Middle Lake and Nelson lagoon catchments. Interestingly, the map is derived from the publicly available forest ecosystem data (1996), that FCNSW don’t use in its management, but the original map indicates ‘Copyright 16-2-2008 Forests NSW’.

Also on the map are the OE&H’s 2012 koala records (n=5) from the Wildlife Atlas,  areas of wetlands, supposedly protected under State Environmental Protection Policy 14, and rain forest (dark green).

forests and koalas middle and nelsons

 

In this case most of the forests are in Mimosa Rocks National Park, and as indicated those in the most trouble are east of the Bermagui – Tathra road. Forests to the west, with a low probability of decline, have less tree species diversity, and are growing on the less fertile Mumbulla soil landscape.

In the absence of any detailed information on the surveys, the koala record east of the road is an anomaly , although the others are generally consistent with the north-south orientation of koala distribution, as identified by the CSIRO. In essence koalas are being squeezed into smaller areas of habitat, in between the ocean/watercourses and the upper reaches of the catchments.

In the bottom left hand corner are koala records (n=4) from Tanja State Forest, adjacent to the extensive areas in Mimosa Rocks NP the NPWS/RFS burned earlier this year, on behalf of the Minister for the Environment.

Back in the bureaucratic world, and among others, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority, Mr Barry Buffier has appeared before the Parliamentary inquiry into the EPA’s performance.

According to Barry, the EPA’s vision “Healthy environment, healthy community, healthy business” is “built on the foundations of  ecologically sustainable development, one that recognises the inter-relatedness of these three elements, and one that recognises that without a healthy environment the other two are not sustainable in the long term.”

Couldn’t agree more, although just putting land into National Parks doesn’t necessarily equate to a healthier environment, especially when environmental monitoring is not undertaken and management plans are not informed by threat and risk assessment. Improving environmental performance, and updating data, may be considered in the promised koala management plan, so one trusts catchment management gets a look in, particularly given there are 22 oyster leases in Nelsons lagoon that to date, have been healthy businesses.

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