Fury fires up as State Government fails koala test
CONSERVATIONISTS and councils have attacked the State Government's proposed new koala planning regulations announced today, labelling the mapping inadequate and its exemptions too broad.
As koala populations struggle to deal with the devastating affects of fire and drought, the Australian Koala Foundation and the Local Government Association of Queensland have called on the government to change tack.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch heralded new planning regulations for southeast Queensland as a win for koala habitat saying koala populations were under intense pressure from drought and bushfires.
She said clearing of koala habitat areas within koala priority areas was now prohibited under the new regulations although exemptions would apply, including a once-off, 500m2 allowance per premises, as well as an allowance for the removal of dangerous trees, and the creation or maintenance of firebreaks adjacent to infrastructure.
Ms Enoch said the planning framework would deliver a more strategic and consistent approach to koala conservation across local government boundaries and give more certainty to the community and industry.
A final koala strategy is expected to be released later this year.
Australian Koala Foundation boss Deborah Tabart said the mapping was not good enough, the regulations applied only to southeast Queensland and did not address issues on the Mount Lofty area of the Great Dividing Range at Toowoomba.
Ms Tabart said the foundation had offered its own mapping as an example of best practice.
She claimed the Koala Advisory Council set up by the government to inform the legislation had members with direct links to the development industry.
Queensland councils have also urged the government rethink what it described as rushed and inadequate reforms, claiming thousands of hectares of locally-known habitat would be excluded from protection as of today.
A meeting of the Local Government Association of Queensland's policy executive this morning condemned the government for ignoring local knowledge and the views of stakeholders.
The policy executive said the decision completely disregarded the views of stakeholders and put koala populations at further risk.
"The country's koala population is in crisis following the recent devastating bushfires," LGAQ president and Sunshine Coast Mayor Mark Jamieson said.
"There would not be a Queenslander who wasn't touched by the heart-wrenching images of burnt and dehydrated koalas impacted by the bushfire crisis.
"Now is not the time to allow thousands of hectares of known local koala habitat to go unprotected."
He said the government had bungled the process, shifted policy at the eleventh hour and continually failed to consult properly.
"They have ignored the views of councils and they have legislated inferior mapping as a result in what local governments see as a failure of governance," Cr Jamieson said.
"Councils were given almost no time over the Christmas break to review the mapping.
"They were also given no notice of today's regulations, only learning through an early morning email.
"This is inexcusable."
Cr Jamieson said councils also condemned the scale and breadth of the exemptions available under the new mapping including those for state government development projects including state development areas and priority development areas.