One of Australia’s most famous icons is set to receive “untouchable” protection under a tough new law to be proposed.
Koalas would receive the highest level of protection of any animal in Australian history under an “untouchable” new law being proposed.
The Australian Koala Foundation is pushing for a federal “Koala Protection Act” that would restrict land clearance and development in all habitats of the beloved species.
Up to 1.5 million square kilometers of forest, or 20 percent of the Australian continent, would be protected under the lobby group’s plan.
The foundation has sent its draft bill to the new Environment Minister, Tanya Plibersek, who has been contacted for comment.
The Morrison government earlier this year accepted scientific advice to state that koalas in Queensland, NSW and the ACT were at risk of extinction following a decline in numbers due to land clearance and bushfires.
The Australian Koala Foundation is concerned that koalas are not classified as endangered in the same way in South Australia and Victoria.
It also pointed out that the federal recovery plan for koalas has yet to be enacted, a decade after the species was first listed as “vulnerable.”
The foundation’s chairman, Deborah Tabart, says the proposed law would ban new infrastructure in koala habitats unless developers can prove their plans would have a beneficial effect.
“Over the years, we’ve had people from different sides of politics water down the bill to make it less onerous,” she told NCA NewsWire.
“But if you don’t stop the trees from coming down, how on earth can you save those koalas?”
Ms Tabart has also suggested introducing incentives for landowners who have koala habitats on their properties, as 80 percent of the species’ population lives on private land.
“It’s just a different way of thinking,” she said.
Ms Tabart said it made economic sense to protect koalas, as forestry was a “dying industry” and tourism a sustainable one.
She estimates the government would save $3 billion by protecting koala forests, as they are also home to other vulnerable species that require expensive recovery plans.
The lobby group’s plea precedes Ms. Plibersek’s first major speech since she was sworn into the environmental and water portfolios.
Ms Plibersek will address the National Press Club in Canberra on July 19 on the findings of an official five-year scientific assessment of Australia’s natural environment.
The report, which the former coalition government received but did not release last year, is expected to be damning.
Ms Plibersek has said she will respond to an official review of Australia’s key environmental law – the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC).
Ms Plibersek has yet to provide a timetable on when she will respond to former head of consumer watchdog Graeme Samuel’s review, which was carried out during the previous parliamentary term.
Mr Samuel made 38 recommendations after discovering that the EPBC Act was failing both the environment and developers, contributing to the unsustainable degradation of Australian habitats.