OPINION: The Great Koala National Park remains a pressing political issue on the Coffs Coast ahead of next year's State Election.
OPINION: The Great Koala National Park remains a pressing political issue on the Coffs Coast ahead of next year's State Election. Cairns Post

A matter of survival or extinction

AS political debate continues on the Great Koala National Park, Alix Goodwin, CEO of the National Parks Association of NSW puts forward the organisation's stance on the proposal.

 

Alix Goodwin, CEO, National Parks Association of NSW.
Alix Goodwin, CEO, National Parks Association of NSW. Contributed

THE Honourable Melinda Pavey MP went in to bat for the logging industry in the face of mounting community support for the Great Koala National Park, which would see 175,000ha of state forests protected in the Coffs Harbour hinterland.

Koalas are in trouble. Scientists are telling us so and the public can see they're getting scarcer. Populations on the north coast have decreased by 50% in 20 years.

Changing nothing, as Ms Pavey suggests, is an option, but it will probably mean we lose them.

The key issue is habitat loss. Research shows koalas like big trees and mature forests so urban expansion, road upgrades and native forest logging reduce available habitat and lower the quality of what remains.

In contrast, protecting habitat can increase habitat quality. Current logging practices are not sustainable. It's a long time since selective logging has occurred.

Logging makes forests more fire prone and drives lantana invasion and forest die-back.

The North East Forest Alliance, through freedom of information documents, identified 23,742ha of high quality koala habitat has been unlawfully logged since 2006.

Ms Pavey's predecessor in the seat of Oxley, Andrew Stoner, recognised how intensive logging has got.

He said in Parliament in 2007 "the remaining state forests are getting belted"; "significant sized compartments are being felled"; "the size of the timber volumes coming out is much smaller" and "most of the milling is done by large companies instead of family owned mills."

Recently, the NSW Government proposed burning trees under 10cm diameter in wood fired power stations on the north coast, while Timber NSW, through its beyond tenure campaign, is effectively calling for the logging of national parks and the end of the National Parks and Wildlife Service as we know it.

Is this the 'active management' of which Ms Pavey speaks?

Compare this dystopian future with a Great Koala National Park.

Business analysts report conservation parks as an 'industry to fly' in 2018-with seeing koalas top of the list for visitors.

The GKNP will, we believe, become a bucket-list item for people world-wide.

Think of the increased business opportunities in nature-based tourism and recreation in a region blessed with a huge array of natural gifts. Think of the job opportunities a well-resourced NPWS could offer-including opportunities for loggers to restore degraded forests to their former glory.

And small millers? We can still have wood. Along with plantations and engineered timbers, there are opportunities for genuinely selective forestry on private land for those who wish to make a hardwood table or deck.

But public land must be managed in the public interest.

Ratepayers subsidise logging through infrastructure maintenance and lost rates revenue. Bellingen shire alone estimates lost revenue at $1 million per year.

This to drive forest destruction, koala declines and reduce carbon stores and water supplies.

The Great Koala National Park would protect koalas and the values of forests, while increasing job and business opportunities and revenue to Local Government.

It offers a bright future if we're brave enough to embrace change.



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