Wildlife experts slam government’s koala habitat plan

Not far enough: The new habitat purchase scheme has been praised in principle but slammed for not including Macarthur properties.

Not far enough: The new habitat purchase scheme has been praised in principle but slammed for not including Macarthur properties.

A state government plan to buy pockets of private land to save koala habitats has come under fire from one of the region’s most prominent wildlife advocates.

Campbelltown animal rescuer Ricardo Lonza has slammed the new koala strategy for failing to extend into the Macarthur region.

The $20 million plan, part of the government’s larger $45 million koala strategy, will only be rolled out in the Southern Highlands, Port Stephens, Port Macquarie, and far north-east NSW.

“It’s a good idea but Macarthur has been left out,” he said. “We have the only chlamydia-free koala colony in Australia and we should be included in this scheme.”

Mr Lonza said plenty of Macarthur residents would have koalas who frequented their properties and would have been eligible for the buy-up plan.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced the scheme last week.

“Essentially, if you own good-quality, occupied koala habitat that meets the criteria, the NSW government is a willing buyer,” she said.

Total Environment Centre director Jeff Angel said it was “crucial” for the plan to extend to western Sydney.

TEC urban sustainability campaigner Saul Deane said it was vitally important the scheme covered the Mount Gilead estate north of Appin, which is soon to be turned into a housing development.

“The survival of the entire koala species in this country may hinge on preserving Sydney’s koalas,” he said.

“This is the only chlamydia-free population left.

“For this reason alone, Mount Gilead, which provides these koalas with the only wildlife corridor connecting the Georges and Nepean rivers in the entire western Sydney region, is essential to their survival.”

The NSW National Parks Association said the plan was “doomed to fail”.

Senior ecologist Dr Oisin Sweeney said he welcomed the promised investment but said more needed to be done to avoid koala extinctions.

“On current prices, $20 million invested in land purchases in the Coffs Harbour area would buy you under 1500 hectares,” he said.

“That’s clearly not enough to save koalas. In order to make this investment work, it must be complemented by efforts to protect koala habitat on public land and proper regulation of tree clearing and urban development.”