The koala is an Australian icon and was once commonly found in South East Queensland. However, as Brisbane and its surrounding communities have grown and expanded, koala populations have dramatically declined as a result of habitat loss and associated impacts from urbanisation. According to government figures, over the last twenty years, koala populations have decreased by 50-80% in South East Queensland and nearly three quarters of essential koala habitat has been destroyed since the 1960s.
While koala conservation measures, including development and vegetation controls, have been in place for some time and substantial protections for habitat implemented, these have proven to be inadequate to stop the decline of koala populations.
To stop the ongoing and rapid decline of koalas, the Queensland government has released the Draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-2024 for public consultation.
The core foundation of the new strategy is the protection and retention of koala habitat through the designation of ‘Koala Priority Areas’ (KPA). The KPA are intended to represent the highest value koala habit that will be the focus for protection and restoration.
Regulatory amendments are proposed to ensure that KPA have the strictest clearing controls and are a focus for restoration activities to enhance existing protected habitat. New regulatory controls will also be introduced to protect koala habitat that is outside KPA.
The Queensland government has stated that while some exemptions will apply, such as clearing for firebreaks around buildings, it is proposed to substantially reduce the number and scope of exemptions. The government is also proposing to introduce new assessment provisions that will be administered by the State government to promote consistency across South East Queensland.
While improved habitat protection and restoration is the core focus of the proposed reforms, the draft strategy also deals with other matters such as threat reduction and community partnerships.
The Draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-2024 is open to public submissions until 31 January 2020. However, consultation on the mapping closes earlier on 22 December 2019.
For property owners, there is a very limited time period to review the proposed mapping and make submissions.