Developers stall koala laws

Bill Hoffman | 6th January 2010

KOALA protection legislation, due to come into effect last Friday, has been delayed because developers were unhappy, says the Australian Koala Foundation.
The Northern Star

KOALA protection legislation, that was due to come into effect in Queensland last Friday, had been delayed because developers were unhappy, Australian Koala Foundation CEO Deborah Tabart said yesterday.

The state government has delayed, until the end of February, implementation of the new koala protection policies, saying it will allow consultation with local government.

Ms Tabart said the “same old, same old” was being repeated in Queensland where, while some restrictions were being made slightly stronger, the “insanity” of labelling koalas either urban or non-urban remained.

She said koala habitat needed to be mapped across biodiversity before dealing with land tenure issues rather than determining the iconic creature’s survival on the basis of who owned what piece of land.

Ms Tabart said AKF had put $8m worth of science on the table. No one is listening.

Queensland Conservation Council spokesman Simon Baltais said delays in implementing urgent measures to save the koala from extinction raised serious questions about the state government’s commitment to the species.

Mr Baltais said changes in the state government’s koala policy schedule appeared to have closely followed meetings it held with development industry representatives.

“Since 1995, the state government has promised stronger protection for the koala and since then it has gone from common to vulnerable. In some regions of sout-east Queensland it has almost become extinct,” he said.

“We need a government that is committed to saving the koalas and not one that jumps when the development industry tells it to.

“Once again, the department of infrastructure and planning appears to be putting koalas second and, consequently, there is little chance of the koala surviving in south-east Queensland if this attitude is so pervasive.”

The Property Council of Australia has expressed concern with both the proposed south-east Queensland Koala Conservation State Planning Regulatory Provisions and the draft Koala Conservation State Planning Policy.

It has described the documents as a “blunt and poorly conceived approach” to management of koala habitat.

Property Council Queensland executive director Steve Greenwood said he supported the aims of koala protection where possible.

“However, if developers are restricted in their ability to move forward with developments as planned in the newly identified interim koala habitat protection areas; this will have a detrimental effect on housing affordability and jobs,” he said.

The Property Council says the policies are draconian, and remove thed basic rights of land owners without compensation.

It says if the state government was genuinely concerned about conservation and rehabilitation of koala habitat within the south-east Queensland urban footprint, it should dedicate funds to acquire and revegetate suitable land or enter into agreements with landowners and compensate them.

Do you think the state government should have delayed the koala protection legislation? Tell us what you think, leave your comments below …

Basement koala zoo plan savaged


May 31, 2009

A DEVELOPER plans to keep koalas in the basement of a shopping centre as part of an indoor zoo.

Blue Mountains residents and environment groups are fighting the plan, which involves refitting the Three Sisters Plaza so koalas can be used for “photo and petting opportunities” by the thousands of tourists who arrive at Echo Point, Katoomba, by coach.

Koalas Ollie and Syd have already been bought by developer Fivex Ltd, although the project is yet to be approved by Blue Mountains City Council.

“We do have a problem with keeping koalas in a basement as a tourist attraction,” said Blackheath resident Robbie Wilde, who organised a rally outside the council chambers yesterday. “I can’t imagine how there’s going to be much quality of life for the koala.”

The protesters say keeping the two koalas in a confined area with regular daily contact with tourists will be bad for their wellbeing.

Stan Wood, the chief executive of native animal rescue service WIRES, said the koala plan sounded “hideous”. “Keeping them indoors for a long period of time on public display would by a real concern for us,” Mr Wood said.

Fivex general manager, Lesli Berger, said the building was not a basement but a “lower ground level” with some windows that would allow natural light into the marsupials’ glass enclosure.

“The health and wellbeing of the koalas must always be our No.1 concern,” said Mr Berger, who said he and his family were animal lovers.

If necessary, Fivex would consider modifying the plan to give the animals more access to the outside world, he said. The enclosure would have greenery and tree stumps for the koalas to lounge in.

The koalas are from Victoria, meaning they don’t like to eat the less-nutritious leaves from NSW eucalypts, and Fivex has made arrangements to get regular shipments of Victorian gum leaves to Katoomba.

The plan is before Blue Mountains City Council and is likely to be considered in July.