THE National Parks Association (NPA) of NSW says the North Coast koala population has halved in the past 20 years and will fall further with the signing of land clearing laws.
NPA chief executive Alix Goodwin urged the protection of wildlife ecosystems and koala habitat on public land.
She also said Freedom Of Information documents showed Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton knew less than one per cent of koala habitat on private land was protected from clearing under the suite of self-assessable codes but signed off on them anyway.
“The land clearing laws approved put almost all koala habitat on private land at risk of clearing,” Ms Goodwin said.
“If we risk losing most habitat on private land we must protect remaining koala habitat on public land.
“We have proposed a suite of reserve proposals with 100 per cent on public land between Port Stephens and the Tweed so koalas have a fighting chance on the North Coast.
“The most important of these is the Great Koala National Park (GKNP), identified by Ms Upton’s own department as containing koala habitats of national significance.
“Yet logging is occurring right now in Gladstone State Forest, part of the GKNP, and the Minister has done nothing to stop it despite repeated pleas and in full knowledge koala populations on the North Coast have declined 50 per cent in just 20 years.
“It has been left to locals to blockade the forest to stand up for koalas.
“We know from polling we did before Christmas that there is overwhelming support for new national parks to protect koalas.
“Public land must be managed in the public interest and there is no more important animal for the people of NSW than koalas.
“We again call on Minister Upton to do what the public wants her to do and create the Great Koala National Park.”