KOALAS could become extinct on the Gold Coast soon after after the city council’s relocation program ends in June next year, according to the Australian Koala Foundation.
Foundation chief executive officer Deborah Tabart said hundreds of koalas in the area would be left in the lurch when the program closed.
The council’s East Coomera Koala Conservation Project has been running for five years but the council says about 320 koalas will not be relocated from the Northern Growth Corridor in which major development is to take place despite developers questioning the viability of the area for further development in light of federal legislation protecting one of our national icons.
“The estimated koala population in that area was thought to be around 500 and we are only allowed to relocate 180 under the permit,” a council spokesperson said.
“Council has relocated approximately 170 koalas to date. Further permits are not being sought at this stage.”
Koalas were listed in April 2012 as ‘vulnerable’ under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999.
Urban Development Institute of Australia president David Ransom said the federal protection legislation had put the development plans in the area, which include the $5 million Coomera Town Centre, in question.
“This issue could slow the whole process down or it could prevent it altogether,” he said.
“Twenty-five years of planning will be wasted, which is a shame because there has been a long-standing plan to redevelop the city of Coomera.”
Mr Ransom urged the council to continue the relocation program.
“An appropriate solution would be to continue their program and get the federal and state governments to agree that it is an appropriate means to the situation,” he said.
Ms Tabart labelled the council relocation project a “shambles”.
“The Gold Coast koala population is on the edge of extinction,” she said.
“They are relocating vulnerable koalas to an area that has not been removed of threats. I am confident a large percentage of the koalas the council has relocated have already died and many have been killed by wild dogs.”
She said major development plans for the area could seal the fate of the remaining koalas.
“The development won’t stop,” she said. “The developers will win and the koalas will die.”
City planning deputy chairman Cr Lex Bell said he believed there were sufficient protections in place for koalas but was concerned how the federal legislation would impact on the growth corridor.
“This is likely to dampen development in the area,” he said. “Developers will obviously have to negotiate with the Department of Primary Industry.”