Critical move to save bushfire-hit koalas
The NSW government is expanding three national parks by a thousand hectares in total to secure land for the state's vulnerable koala population.
The new land will add 912 hectares to Cataract National Park three hours west of Byron Bay, and 93 hectares combined to Maria National Park in Crescent Head near Kempsey and Bongil Bongil National Park south of Coffs Harbour.
"This expansion of key areas of our national parks secure critical habitat across a number of animal and plant species, most notably our iconic koalas," Environment Minister Matt Kean said.
"You can't save koalas without first protecting their habitat and the best way to do that is by fortifying and expanding our national parks, which is exactly what we are doing."
Parts of the land that will be added to the Maria and Bongil Bongil parks were untouched by last summer's catastrophic bushfires and have become a refuge to other native and threatened species.
Koalas are designated as vulnerable on NSW's threatened species list.
About 20,000 to 30,000 animals are thought to be left in the wild.
The fuzzy marsupials were hit hard by the bushfires, which burned critical habitat and killed more than 70 per cent of certain populations in areas studied recently by the World Wildlife Foundation.
Parts of the new parkland were bought from landowners and some is from government properties being reclassified.
The government used money from its koala strategy fund to buy the land.
The $44.7 million koala strategy has $20 million set aside for land acquisitions.
The land added to parks "ticks different boxes" in terms of protecting koalas, NSW national parks chief Atticus Fleming said.
"Some of the land might be the best habitat for koalas, and other parts might be important for connecting separate habitats," Mr Fleming said.
Connecting habitats is important in order to give koalas from different family groups a chance to mate.
And having the land designated as parts of national parks means there will be conservation resources at hand to help the koalas thrive.
One of the important ways to do so is to cull feral wildlife that might disturb the sensitive koalas.
"It also means development won't occur on these lands. In national parks, trees can't be cut down," Mr Fleming said.
"That means it's protected forever. The trees will be there for koalas in perpetuity."
Originally published as Critical move to save bushfire-hit koalas