POLITICAL FOOTBALL: The Great Koala National Park is set to be a key issue at next year's State Government election.
POLITICAL FOOTBALL: The Great Koala National Park is set to be a key issue at next year's State Government election. Ben Beaden

Koala Park is key to species survival

GREENS Coffs Harbour City Councillor Dr Sally Townley has penned a reply to the opinion piece written by the Member for Oxley Melinda Pavey last week on the factors surrounding the proposed Great Koala National Park.

I WOULD like to respond to Minister Pavey's opinion piece on the proposed Great Koala National Park. She presents some "facts” which I would dispute.

Fact One - Minster Pavey claims there are 2.4 million hectares in conservation reserves 'in our region”. Since she did not include a definition of "our region”, I used the NSW Planning department's boundaries of North Coast. My analysis shows that NPWS Estate totals 805,438 ha (around one third of the figure quoted by the Minister).

Fact Two - Using the same boundary, analysis shows State Forest to be 553,122 ha, considerably higher than the 400,000 quoted by the Minister. While she is correct in saying that harvesting only occurs in a small percentage of SF estate, it must also be remembered that large areas of forest are not koala habitat in any case, since koala habitat is defined by certain trees and soil types within the forest landscape.

Fact Three - Minister Pavey claims recent surveys by Forestry Corporation have found "high occupancy rates”. This is a gross over-simplification of a study which used sound-recording of koalas in conjunction with computer modelling to refine habitat prediction. This technique probably represents a new efficiency in koala survey, but makes no definitive statements about population levels.

I agree with Minister Pavey on one thing; it is time for a science-based factual discussion about forestry, our forest estate and koalas (as well as all other forest fauna and flora).

Unfortunately she has not yet made a contribution to this goal.

Koala populations have been in steady decline for a long time, hence the listing at national and state level as a threatened species. Habitat availability is the key to their future survival.

The Regional Forest Agreements of 20 years ago basically allocated (or over-allocated) the remaining wood supply in northern NSW.

The amount of public money which has gone into propping up this industry is vast.

The timber supply on public land is simply not there and if we are to have any future timber industry in the future, we need to take a very long term view.

Restoration, not continued modification of public forests is the only solution.

We must recognize a much wider set of values for forests than just wood supply.

Forests must also be valued as habitat for our unique flora and fauna, water sources, carbon sinks, recreational areas and as a cornerstone of Australian tourism.

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