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Speech: Koala Tragedy in NSW

We are rapidly hurtling towards a future in New South Wales where our next generations will not see a koala in the bush or in a national park and perhaps not even in a zoo. They will have to go to a museum because governments continue to make reckless, irresponsible and greedy decisions that push our iconic species to the brink. Koalas are on track to be extinct in New South Wales by 2050 if we continue our current path. This is an absolute tragedy.

Human greed and corruption are leading to disaster. Koalas across the state are being driven to extinction by land clearing, inappropriate urban development and disease. The Campbelltown local government area in south-west Sydney is unique in that it supports the only disease-free koala population in the whole of the Sydney Basin, being unaffected by chlamydia. They're most likely the only population listed in New South Wales that is actually growing, but it is slowly being choked by open-slather, inappropriate development which will cut off vital koala corridors.

The Greater Sydney Commission has set a target of an additional 143,000 dwellings in the next 20 years. The New South Wales government's proposed Greater Macarthur Priority Growth Area will deliver 33,000 of these on land that includes vital koala corridors, and all of this without a koala plan of management for the Campbelltown local government area.

Take the Gilead development, for instance. Lendlease's 216-hectare development will leave just about 30 hectares of woodland. The Total Environment Centre has highlighted in their submission to the biodiversity certification application that the Mount Gilead property is situated between the Georges and Nepean rivers and is the current transit point of koalas between the two river corridors. With the development, it would become near impossible for them to travel between them. And apparently they're able to do this through the magic of biodiversity offsetting. We are not really fooled by the government's spin doctors, because no amount of the scam that is biodiversity offsetting can replace an ecosystem which has already been destroyed. Once gone, it's gone forever.

The biodiversity certification assessment for the Gilead development found that 284 species credits are required to offset impacts to koalas. So where do they get these credits from? There are 34 credits from Fernhill, near Mulgoa—although I'm not sure how the Campbelltown koalas are meant to travel the 40 kilometres to get there. There are 133 koala credits from areas that are zoned for public recreation—again, I'm not sure how public recreation and koala habitat are meant to co-exist when we know how at risk koalas are from car strike and dog attacks. And there are 151 credits from the Noorumba bush reserve, an area that the Campbelltown council is already protecting.

Where is the additionality in all of this? The offset process will not result in one extra tree being planted or one extra tree being preserved despite many trees and koala connectivity corridors being completely destroyed. The entire biodiversity offset program is designed for the convenience of property developers, for the convenience of mining companies and for the convenience of big agribusinesses, not for environmental needs.

We are running out of time. Log on to the Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown Facebook page; it is absolutely heartbreaking. Time and time again there are koalas found dead on Appin Road or Picton Road. Tireless volunteers spend their time and money cleaning up the mess that bad planning has created. This koala colony has only survived because its habitat has been protected by the community, by environmental groups and by animal welfare groups. But the New South Wales government seems intent on squeezing them out even further.

I must congratulate the Georges River Koala Network for their push for a Georges River national park. It is very important that this park does not stop at Appin and continues into Wollondilly to protect the koalas. We need to protect biodiversity corridors connecting the Georges River, the Nepean River, the Cataract River and the Bargo River. I for one won't stand by while greed and corruption drive our most iconic species to extinction.

HANSARD LINK

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