The NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee has been unable to list the endangered Port Stephens koala even though it had previously recommended the listing.
The committee declared in 2017 that the koalas face “a very high risk of extinction...in the near future.”
However, in its decision to reject the listing the committee stated that it was unable to provide state-based protection to the population because the State Government’s new laws stripped its power to classify populations as endangered.
While listing of endangered populations used to provide triggers for extra investment and a recovery plan for a species, it is no longer possible as a result of changes to the law.
During the process of preliminary listing Port Stephens koalas the committee found that habitat had become highly fragmented due to clearing for agriculture, housing, sand mining and roads. New developments proposed in the area would take in more than 1200 hectares of koala habitat.
Further the Tomaree koala population would decline to extinction within a decade at the current mortality rate.
It also found the total number of koala deaths from vehicle strikes was likely to be even larger than the officially reported number.
Continuing decline is anticipated as only 36 per cent of core koala habitat is found within reserved land.
“This new koala crisis comes on top of the biodiversity laws that allow up to 99 per cent of koala habitat to be logged on private land; the government’s sell-off of core koala habitat at the Mambo Wetlands to developer and the failure to buy it back; the Department of Planning approving a sand mine in recognised koala habitat at Williamtown,” Port Stephens MP Kate Washington said.
“I urge the Government to amend these laws, support the listing, and get on with targeted action to protect our iconic koalas in and around Port Stephens before it is too late.”
Shadow environment spokeswoman Penny Sharpe said the Opposition would restore the ability to examine and classify the full range of protections for local populations.
“Generations of Port Stephens locals have revered these Koalas and the government should be doing everything in its power to protect them for future generations, rather than turning their backs on them,” she said.
The Office of Environment and Heritage declined to comment.
The state government announced in May a $45 million strategy to protect the state’s dwindling koala populations.
It also announced $3 million for a Port Stephens koala hospital.