Koala summit discusses threats to colony

Wollondilly Council, experts and community members came together to discuss the future of the Macarthur koala population on Tuesday, September 11.

More than 100 people attended the council’s first koala summit at the Appin Community Hall to listen to speakers discuss threats to the koala population, ways to preserve the animals and habitat protection.

Council’s environmental education officer Damion Stirling said the forum achieved its goal.

“We wanted to bring all the key players together to have an open discussion about protecting koalas and ways to move forward,” he said.

“The forum showed that the council, community and government agencies have a good foundation in understanding the local colony but we need to forge ahead.

“We need to establish better working relationships with government agencies.

“The Roads and Maritime Service, Department of Planning, local government and the Office of Environment and Heritage need to all be at the same planning table.

“The forum that proved protecting koalas was important to the community and the council, who is trying to be a voice for koalas.”

Mayor Judith Hannan said the response to the summit was “positive”.

“Attendees agree that the future of these disease-free koalas should be of the highest priority for all levels of government,” she said.

Mr Stirling said there was a good cross section of community and government agencies present as well as representatives from developer companies.

“The attendance from developers shows they are keen to listen and want to work out better outcomes,” he said.

Speakers and panel experts focused on the key issues impacting local koalas, with presentations from World Wildlife Fund, Total Environment Centre, Department of Planning and Environment, Office of Environment and Heritage, and Macarthur National Parks Association as well as Wollondilly Council.

Mr Stirling said the Macarthur National Parks Association representative spoke about how there were multiple generations from the one family who lived in the region.

“The association has collected data on koala movements for 27 years,” he said. “The speech highlighted that koalas move in different directions and was important information when planning koala corridors.”

The attendees were then able to ask questions to a panel.

“The big question people wanted answered was how to reduce roadkill?” Mr Stirling said.

“Secondly, they wanted to ensure there were efficient koala corridors with buffer zones across the region.”

Mr Sitrling said $1.1 million would be spent on wildlife protection fencing on Picton Road, between Cascades Creek and Allens Creek, through the state government’s Save Our Species program.

He said, going forward, the protection of the koala population needed to be integrated across the region rather than by piecemeal decisions.

The councillors and staff are looking forward to hearing the council’s koala petition debated in state Parliament on Thursday, September 27.

The council’s petition called on the state government to repeal the rezoning of the South East Wilton development until a local koala protection strategy is in place.

Mr Stirling thanked the community advocates and wildlife rescuers for their continued campaigning and support.