More room for koalas to spread out on NSW north coast

·2-min read

A NSW Labor pre-election promise to protect the state's koala population from extinction has taken another step forward, with the purchase of a parcel of land for dedicated habitat.

Koala-preferred bushland covering 4500 hectares near Port Macquarie on the state's mid-north coast has been purchased by the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS).

NSW Environment Minister Penny Sharpe said on Saturday the opportunity to buy large parcels of private land featuring koala habitat along the NSW coast are extremely rare, and described the move as "a big win".

"Permanent protection of this property as part of the national parks estate will not only secure the koala-preferred habitat– it will also enable us to lessen the increasing and cumulative threats faced by koalas," she said.

Research shows koala populations in the wild will dwindle to the mere hundreds by 2050 if steps are not taken to protect them.

Koalas have fallen victim to logging and land clearing, with cars and dogs also major hazards for the furry marsupials.

The Black Summer fires of 2019/2020 were also responsible for a severe dip in the population numbers in NSW.

The site, west of Port Macquarie, sits between two existing koala populations at Comboyne and South Kempsey, and is already home to between 30 and 60 of the marsupials.

The land abuts part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, with its acquisition expected to also help protect at least 45 other threatened species living nearby.

Ms Sharpe said they include the Hastings River mouse and the spotted-tailed quoll.

"With active management of fire, weeds and feral animals, we will continue to maintain and improve this habitat for koalas and other native species," she said.

The $80 million Great Koala National Park was announced by Labor before the NSW election, with the party looking to protect the marsupial population across the mid-north coast.

The opposition's environment spokeswoman Kellie Sloane said the announcement is "smoke and mirrors", and the former coalition government delivered a nation-leading, fully funded koala strategy.

"I'm pleased to see Labor continuing the Coalition's Koala strategy and using money already set aside by us to acquire new Koala habitat," she said in a statement.

"No one knows what or where the purported Great Koala National Park is or where it is up to. Labor need to come clean on what they're spending the money on."

Earlier this week, the Nature Conservation Council said some 30,813 hectares of state forest earmarked for the park could be logged by the forestry corporation in the next year.

The Forestry Corporation of NSW has rejected claims it is "ramping up" logging operations ahead of more land allocations for koalas, saying there would be about 10,000 hectares on the north coast logged annually, not the 31,000 hectares as claimed.