Koala populations have been in long-term decline in South East Queensland with estimates that koala numbers have decreased by 50-80 percent in key habitat areas over the last 20 years.
To address this situation, the Queensland Government released the draft Koala Conservation Strategy (KCS) in December 2019 and has followed this up with a range of supporting legislative amendments that commenced on 7 February 2020.
The changes made by the Government affect the:
A fundamental objective of the KCS is to stop the clearing of koala habitat and ensure that development does not adversely affect koala populations in Koala Priority Areas (KPAs) and Koala Habitat Areas (KHAs).
The new framework is now applied consistently across the South East Queensland region and establishes:
Inside a KPA, clearing of koala habit areas will be prohibited. Development that does not involve clearing, will be assessed by local governments for koala conservation outcomes, such as safe koala movement. Outside of a Koala Priority Area, developments involving the clearing of koala habitat areas will be assessed by the State Government.
The new koala conservation protections also contain exemptions for the clearing of koala habitat areas in order to balance the need to protect koala habitat with the need to allow some clearing to cater for growth and essential services.
Exemptions for clearing of koala habitat are listed in Schedule 24 of the Planning Regulation 2017, and include, but not limited to the following:
From a review the KHA and KPA mapping generally goes far beyond the existing Koala Assessable Development Area mapping that was previously in place. To identify whether your proposed development and or parcel of land falls within a protected area, the State Government have released koala habitat mapping to assist. This mapping uses regional ecosystem and high-value regrowth mapping provided by the Queensland Herbarium. Please refer to the link below or alternatively give us a call to identify if your property is affected by the new mapping.
New clearing controls and development assessment requirements now apply to koala habitat in South East Queensland.
Landowners and developers need to consider the impact of these changes on future development, including whether relevant exemptions may apply to clearing.
Landowners also have a limited ability to seek changes to the mapping of koala habitat areas if they believe that their land has been wrongly mapped.
Stafford Hopewell, Partner
Ben Leong, Solicitor