Jenny Leong MP calls on the government to protect Koalas

Greens Member for Newtown, Jenny Leong MP has called on the Government to protect core koala hubs identified within the boundaries of the proposed Great Koala National Park.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (11:16:04): By leave: I support the motion and thank my Greens colleague the member for Balmain for raising this crucial issue. While we do not see many koalas in the electorates of Balmain and Newtown, the response we get from our communities—who are making sure that we are doing all we can to protect koalas, their habitat and all our native animals in New South Wales—is one of the most overwhelming. The horrific impacts of the summer's bushfires are still being felt in communities across our State today. As the motion originally noted, the bushfires across New South Wales burned more than five million hectares of land, destroying landscapes and killing over a billion native animals. We can no longer ignore the reality that we are living in a climate emergency, and we cannot wait for the current health pandemic to pass. We need to make sure that we are doing all we can to address the impacts of both the pandemic and the climate emergency at the same time.

The Greens support the motion and call on the Government to immediately protect all core koala hubs identified within the boundaries of the proposed Great Koala National Park. The motion notes the bushfires and also notes that the remaining unburnt habitat across New South Wales is of critical importance to enable native animal populations to recover. The motion note the 42 recommendations from the recent parliamentary inquiry into koalas—chaired by my Greens colleague in the other place Ms Cate Faehrmann—and calls on the Government to take the recommendations seriously. It is absolutely crucial. My electorate office in Newtown has received direct contact from over 160 residents expressing their concerns about the future of koala populations in New South Wales. They worry that the next generation will not be able to see koalas in the wild.

The good people of the Newtown electorate have so much passion and care for the koala population and our precious native animals. As I said before, whenever there are stories about this we always receive an overwhelming response in support of making sure that we are protecting our precious native animals. Their concerns are clearly valid. After the devastating bushfires over the past summer, conservation scientists from the World Wildlife Fund [WWF] reported that as many as 10,000 koalas were killed, accounting for one-third of the koala population in the State. In the worst affected areas, like in northern New South Wales, up to 80 per cent of the koala population was killed. I hope that the recommendations of the inquiry are taken very seriously.

The Greens are 100 per cent committed to doing all that we can in this Parliament and in the community to protect our koala populations. I acknowledge The Greens member for Ballina when it comes to that work. I note that she was recently part of a formal donation of an infrared camera by WWF and the Koala company to assist local koala rescuers in her area. Explaining how this situation came about, Tamara wrote:

Three years ago Koala whisperer Maria Matthes realised that an infra-red camera would allow her and other wildlife rescuers to identify injured animals and monitor their health in the wild. She came to me and we approached the environment Minister who gave no assistance.

So I reached out to and fast forward 18 months, they in partnership with WWF donated $22,000 for the camera. Maria is an incredible human being who works with our struggling Ballina koala population on a daily basis. This camera in her hands will save koala lives.

We are committed to ensuring that koala populations have the time to recover from the devastation we have seen in our communities across the State.

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