Survival of 'iconic' species jeopardised by new laws

THE NSW Government has declared six of the state's threatened species "iconic". Those six are the koala, Wollemi pine, mallee fowl, brush-tailed rock wallaby, plains wanderer and southern corroboree frog.

The government says iconic species are important socially, culturally and economically and the community expects them to be effectively managed and protected.

The National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) has pointed out that iconic status is not going to protect the koala in this state because of the ever-increasing intensity of native forest logging and the Baird government's recently legislated new land-clearing laws.

The decline of the koala in NSW has been obvious for years.

In NSW - well before it gained this "iconic" status - it was first listed as rare and vulnerable in 1992.

In 2012 it was listed under the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity (EPBC) Act as vulnerable in NSW, south-east Queensland and the ACT. Yet, despite this recognition, it continues to decline and seemingly slide towards extinction.

A 2015 study showed that almost every koala population across the state was in decline.

The World Wildlife Fund estimates that 2.2 million hectares of koala habitat on private land could go if the State Government's land-clearing laws are implemented.

In addition there would be significant loss of paddock trees which provide important habitat for koalas.

The NPA's senior ecologist, Dr Oisin Sweeney, said although Premier Baird was not an ecologist and obviously did not grasp the link between habitat and species, he should listen to those that did understand.

"One of the most fundamental tenets of ecology is that the distribution of animals is determined by availability of habitat.

"So if koala habitat goes, the koalas go. It's pretty simple," he said.

If we want koalas to survive in this state, we want some effective action to protect habitat and address the species' other challenges.

Iconic status tokenism is not enough.

Leonie Blain, Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition

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