Is it enough to save our dying koalas?
IT was a monumental recognition of the drastically dwindling koala population when the State Government unveiled its unprecedented Koala Strategy, but for environmental groups, there was a glaring omission of the Great Koala National Park proposal.
The koala population has declined by an estimated 26% in the last 20 years from the impact of factors such as loss of habitat, leaving Australia's national treasure a 'vulnerable' species.
The NSW Government recently released its Koala Strategy in a bit to combat the issue, investing around $45m.
Initially a total of 24,538ha of state forest will be set aside as koala reserves, including a further 4096ha on the mid north coast.
A $3m koala hospital and tourism centre will be established in Port Stephens, a move which has led to claims from local environmental groups Coffs Harbour is being 'short changed' as the Great Koala National Park proposal, developed by the National Parks Association of NSW, has been 'ignored'.
The Great Koala National Park is proposed to be located in the Coffs Harbour hinterland and would protect koalas in a 315,000ha reserve, whereas the Koala Strategy has mapped out differing reserves which attempts to balance the needs of koalas as well as the timber industry.
"By proposing small fragmented reserves in steep, remote and, in some cases, degraded forests the Government has lost the opportunity to showcase our koalas through visitor centres accessible to the public and a range of other visitor facilities as proposed in the Great Koala National Park," a Bellingen Environment Council spokesperson said.
"No koala hospital is proposed in the Governments strategy between Port Macquarie and Lismore, the area of the coast that includes the proposed Great Koala National Park.
"In failing to take up the proposal to build a koala hospital at the location of proposed Great Koala National Park Visitor Centre on the Pacific Highway at Pine Creek the Government is failing to support genuine koala conservation and ecotourism opportunities and short changing the Coffs Harbour community."