Labor’s environment spokesman Luke Foley with Macey from the Featherdale Wildlife Park
at NSW Parliament this morning.
Photo: Josephine Tovey
The bear pit went gaga over a visit from a koala today as the opposition called for the animals to be added to the national threatened species list.
Labor’s environment spokesman Luke Foley called on federal Environment Minister Tony Burke to add koalas, whose numbers he said were dwindling due to land clearing, logging, disease, cars and dogs, to the national list.
“When the white man came to Australia there were 10 million koalas; today in New South Wales there are around 10,000. We know that numbers on the east coast of Australia … are in rapid decline,” he said.
Mr Foley had the attention of almost every member of the press gallery at the announcement, as he made the plea beside Macey, a three-year-old female koala from the Featherdale Wildlife Park in Sydney, who was brought to Parliament for the announcement.
Macey clung to the shoulder of a handler from the wildlife park throughout the press conference, managing the occasional blink and stretch for the cameras.
Mr Foley said the listing would mean the federal Environment Minister would have to provide approval for any development that affected koalas if they were on the threatened species list.
“Four weeks ago, I visited the Boambee State Forest near Coffs Harbour and witnessed the devastation of koala feed trees,” he said.
In February, Mr Burke requested an extension of the time needed to decide whether to add koalas to the list of threatened species, as he said populations were variable across the country.
“There is a strong case that a nationally threatened species listing is required for koalas in areas where numbers have been under greatest threat,” he said.
“But I can’t provide a blanket threatened species listing across Australia when there are many places where koala numbers remain high.”
The decision on whether to add koalas to the list will be made by April 30.
Mr Foley also reiterated his concern today about a range of environmental protections in national parks and other conservation areas being wound back in an inquiry backed by the Coalition and the Shooters and Fishers Party.