Our local koalas cannot survive and thrive unless we help them.
That was the big message of the day at a peaceful koala rally held at Rosemeadow on Sunday.
The rally, which was organised by ‘Help Save the Wildlife and Bushland in Campbelltown’ Facebook page administrator Ricardo Lonza, was run to urge all levels of government to commit to the ongoing protection of the Macarthur region’s disease-free koala population.
Mr Lonza said more than 250 people attended the rally, complete with signs and placards, and showed their support for Macarthur’s koalas.
“I’m really pleased with the turn-out,” he said.
“I think our message is getting out there – we are a voice for the voiceless.
“But our work is not done, we need to keep the pressure on our politicians to provide overpasses and underpasses for the fauna to cross Appin Road, greater protection of koala habitats and exclusion fencing on both sides of Appin Road.”
Mr Lonza said he was pleased to see representatives of Wollondilly Council and Liverpool Council but was disappointed there weren’t more representatives of Campbelltown Council, besides Greens councillor Ben Moroney.
“I would have liked to have seen the mayor,” he said.
“We’ve got the support of Wollondilly and Liverpool, now we just need to get Campbelltown, Wollongong and the Sutherland Shire councils to join the fight.”
Many people, including wildlife campaigners and local politicians, spoke at the Oswald Oval rally.
Environmental advocate Nea Makowski said Macarthur’s koalas were healthier than almost any other koala colony in the country.
She said the time had come for all governments to protect the marsupials.
“There is now no more excuse available for government at any level to not do what’s right for the wildlife of south-west Sydney,” she said.
“It will take all of us to save our koalas. With your support local politicians can convince their colleagues of the importance of this issue, so we hope to send our message today loud and clear to Macquarie Street from Macarthur.”
Campbelltown MP Greg Warren said our koala population deserved better than it had been getting.
“This isn’t a matter of politics, it’s a matter of common sense,” he said.
“But let’s not lose sight, fixing this issue does require political leadership. Without political leadership, decisions won’t be made to put in place plans for the preservation of our valued, unique and beautiful koala colony.
“We need to take this plan seriously, we need to have investment.”
Mr Warren said the “enormous” and successful overpass constructed on North Shore was proof the same thing could be built in Macarthur.
Penny Sharpe, state opposition minister for environment and heritage, said the Labor party promised to protect Campbelltown’s koalas.
“We cannot ignore this issue anymore – it’s crunch time for the koalas of Campbelltown,” she said.
“What sort of community is it, what sort of government is it, if we allow the koalas to simply go through neglect?
“We cannot save koalas if we do not save their trees.
“We cannot save koalas if we do not give them safe passage as development goes up around them.
“We cannot save koalas if we continue to ignore the science that tells us what we need to do.”
Ms Sharpe said that if the community worked together with government, the koalas would be saved.
Koala tracker and conservationist Geoff Francis told the crowd data gathered from a pair of tagged koalas revealed they crossed Appin Road on average once every three weeks.
He said exclusion fencing was absolutely vital to the protection of local koalas to prevent deaths – there have been 21 koala deaths on Appin Road in the past three years – from occurring.
WIRES coordinator Kate Ryan said without immediate action, there was no guarantee Macarthur’s koala colony would survive.
“If we don’t do something now, they won’t exist in another 50 years,” she said.
“We need more pressure on local councils and local government to give our koalas a safe place to live, to give our future generations of children something natural and wonderful to look upon.”
Mr Lonza thanked everyone who attended the rally and promoted the event in the preceding weeks.
“Keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.
“Reach out to your local representatives and councils and continue to be a voice for the voiceless.”