Call for Labor’s koala national park to extend into Wollondilly

Wollondilly Labor candidate Jo-Ann Davidson meet Archer the koala and his handler Chad Staples at Sunday's policy announcement event.
Wollondilly Labor candidate Jo-Ann Davidson meet Archer the koala and his handler Chad Staples at Sunday's policy announcement event.

The Labor Party’s election promise to protect Macarthur’s disease-free koala population does not go far enough.

That’s the view of Wollondilly Council staff and councillors.

Opposition Leader Luke Foley on Sunday announced a plan, if his party is elected into government, to establish Sydney's first koala national park at Smiths Creek Reserve, near Campbelltown.

The 4000-hectare national park would stretch from Georges River bushland at Glenfield in the north to Appin in the south.

Councillor Matthew Deeth praised the proposal and said it was a “step in the right direction” but is calling on the Labor Party to extend the boundary of the national park further into Wollondilly.

“Koalas aren’t confined by local government area boundaries and neither should the national park,” he said.

“The region’s koala habitat crosses five local government areas – Sutherland, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Wollondilly and the Wingecarribee.

“The announcement is a good first step but the Labor Party should tell Wollondilly Council its broader koala protection plan for the region.

“We want a koala management plan for the whole south-west Sydney region.

“The Liberal and Labor parties have delivered piecemeal approaches to protecting the region’s koalas.

“We need to put party politics aside and put solutions in place for the region’s koalas.”

Wollondilly Labor candidate Jo-Ann Davidson said protecting koala habitat in her electorate would be “top of my agenda”.

She said the proposed national park stopped at Appin because “no acquisition of land would be involved”.

“Essentially the national park could be established tomorrow because the area proposed is government land,” Mrs Davidson said.

“The national park will extend into Wollondilly but Labor will need to have a discussion with private landowners to use the land.

“There will however be safeguards in place for koalas on Appin Road and Picton Road.”

Mrs Davidson said she was listening to criticism that the plan “did not go far enough” to protect Wollondilly’s koalas but the Labor Party “needed to start somewhere”.

“We have to win government then we can create the national park,” she said. “This is a positive move forward.”

Wollondilly Council’s environment education officer Damion Stirling praised the announcement but said the proposal did not address koala habitat protection in the greater Macarthur area.

He said the data showed the Macarthur region’s koala population was healthy, expanding and 1000-strong.

“How will the population continue to grow without the proper habitat protections?” Mr Stirling said.

The council is calling for the protection of koala corridors connecting the Georges River, Nepean River, Cataract River and Bargo River.

“The council does not feel Labor’s plan is comprehensive enough,” Mr Stirling said.

“The declaration of the national park does not address the protection of koala habitat around the growth areas in Wollondilly such as Wilton New Town.

“The council is calling on the Labor Party to broaden its plan to cover the whole Macarthur region.”

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren (right) meets Archer the koala and his handler Chad Staples at Sunday's policy announcement event. Picture: Ben Chenoweth

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren (right) meets Archer the koala and his handler Chad Staples at Sunday's policy announcement event. Picture: Ben Chenoweth

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren said the announcement was a “good start and further action would be taken”.

“We can’t do everything at once,” he said. “As Mr Foley said, ‘this is only the beginning’.

“A 4000-hectare national park is a bold and consider plan.”

Nationals Park Association Macarthur branch member Pat Durman said the NPA approached Wollondilly Council many years ago to ask for support in establishing a national park that protected the region’s koalas but the council was not interested at the time.

“I would love to see the national park extended through to Wollondilly and right up to Liverpool and Heathcote,” she said.

“The only way to protect the whole colony is to have a national park that extends to all the rivers.”

Labor’s plan will also see a $3 million koala care centre in the region, similar to those already in Lismore and Port Macquarie.

The final measure will see strict conditions imposed on developers planning to build housing estates bordering known koala habitat, especially along Appin Road and Heathcote Road.

Development consent will be conditional on wildlife protection measures such as underpasses, overpasses and fencing being built.

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