Port Stephens' koalas facing ‘endangered’ listing – Threatened Species Day highlights need for action

In Parliament | 07.09.17

The NSW Opposition has slammed the Berejiklian Government for failing to protect the environment as a local population of koalas are revealed to be under serious threat, with a Preliminary Determination finding that the koala colony in the Port Stephens area should be listed as ‘endangered’.

On Threatened Species Day 2017, Shadow Environment Minister Penny Sharpe joined Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington to meet with local koala volunteers and tour a crucial area of local koala habitat, the Mambo Wetlands.

The Determination that the koala population in Port Stephens be declared endangered makes for sobering reading, including that:

  • the population is facing a very high risk of extinction in the near future;
  • recent surveys suggest a decline from 500 to 800 koalas to just 100 to 200 now;
  • continuing decline is anticipated as only 36% of preferred koala habitat in the area is found within reserved lands, with increasing pressure for suburban development leading to habitat loss and degradation, as well as vehicle strikes, dog attacks, and fire;
  • a recent viability analysis of the Tomaree koala population – which represents the majority of the whole koala population in the Port Stephens area –suggested that “with the current rate of detected mortality the population would be extinct within a decade.”

The listing would be the latest in a long line of atrocities against the koala in NSW, with recent land clearing reforms set to decimate native bushland around the state, logging operations allowed without properly accounting for koalas in state forests, and the botched sell-off of core koala habitat in the Mambo Wetlands.

The visit also comes in the wake of a series of incidents where koalas were struck by vehicles, showing the imperative to improve public awareness of the dangers faced by these iconic animals in local streets.

The determination is on exhibition until 13 October, and if finalised would be the fourth population of koalas listed as endangered in NSW.

Quotes attributable to Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe

“On this Threatened Species Day we should take a moment to work on ways to protect the incredible native animals that we have, especially those lucky enough to live next door to koalas in Port Stephens.

“We also need to send this Liberal-National Government a message: it’s time to give more priority and resources to protecting koalas in New South Wales, before they decline to extinction in more regions.

“Generations of residents in the Port Stephens area have loved and revered these koalas – let’s make sure we protect them for future generations.” 

Quotes attributable to Member for Port Stephens Kate Washington

“To think that we may no-longer see koalas in the wild in Port Stephens in a decade, is too awful to contemplate. Our community needs the Berejiklian Government's support to stop the catastrophic decline. But so far, all of my pleas to the Minister for the Environment have fallen on deaf ears. 

"The Preliminary Determination reveals just how irresponsible it was for the Berejiklian government to sell off core koala habitat, part of the Mambo Wetlands. I'm determined to see the land returned to public ownership. 

“Our local volunteers work so hard – in often heartbreaking circumstances – trying to prevent the extinction of our local koalas. They understand that we all have a duty to protect this iconic species. That’s what Threatened Species Day is all about.”