Government report ‘validates’ need for Coffs koala park
CONSERVATIONISTS say that the need for the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) near Coffs Harbour has been 'validated' following the release of a report by the NSW Government, which has recommended the protection of around 55,000ha of state forest in the region.
The report, which was obtained by the Bellingen Environment Centre following a freedom of information request, was ordered by the Minister for Energy and Environment Matt Kean after he had taken a two-day tour of the area last year.
Representatives from the GKNP steering committee had also met with Mr Kean earlier this year to advocate for the immediate suspension of planned and active logging within the boundaries of the park proposal following the devastating 2019-2020 bushfires.
The report by the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has identified ten key koala 'focus' areas, which would provide an additional 54,979ha to national park estate and a decrease of 34,269ha in harvestable forestry area.
According to the report these ten focus areas would "provide a feasible and strategic balance between increasing protections for koalas, while minimising impacts to forestry operations."
It also identified that the GKNP proposal encompassed 60 koala hubs.
However Bellingen Environment Centre spokesperson Ashley Love said the report had excluded many sites through the requirement that the impact on wood supply should be minimised.
He said the study was also narrowed by prioritising areas of existing national parks that could either be linked or have their boundaries extended.
"None of the koala focus areas are currently being logged. Only one koala focus area, covering the Gladstone, Viewmont and Newry State Forests where logging was withdrawn last December, has a current logging licence.
"Therefore establishing the DPIE's park proposal will not be disruptive of current forestry operations" he said.
Forests which are currently subject to logging operations - as well as heavy protest from conservationists - including Lower Bucca and Nambucca were omitted as they do not directly adjoin existing conservation reserves.
Mr Love added five of the ten focus areas have been burnt by the bushfires, and two partly burnt.
The GKNP proposal includes habitat of other threatened species significantly affected by the fires, such as the Greater Glider, Rufous Scrub Bird, Hastings River Mouse and Tiger Quoll.
The Bellingen Environment Centre is also calling for a detailed socio-economic study of the GKNP proposal, stating the Government's study had left out the potential for eco-tourism.
The proposal includes multi-day bushwalks, 4WD tours and mountain bike tracks.
"The koalas cannot afford any more delays, the Minister for the Environment must heed the DPIE's advice and act urgently to transfer the core areas of identified koala habitat into the national park estate as soon as possible as a first stage of the Great Koala National Park," Mr Love said.
The ten key koala habitat focus areas identified by the Department of Planning, Industry and the Environment:
1. Marengo and Chaelundi State Forests
2. Sheas Nob and Clouds Creek State Forests
3. Moonpar, Clouds Creek, Ellis and Sheas Nob State Forests
4. Kangaroo River State Forest
5. WildCattle creek State forest
6. Boambee, Orara West and Tuckers Nob State Forests
7. Pine Creek State Forest
8. Gladstone, Viewmont and Newry State Forests
9. Buckra Bendinni State Forest
10. Oakes State Forest