Experts have recommended Queensland’s koala population be downgraded to ‘vulnerable’. Photo: Ian Waldie.
Fauna experts have recommended the conservation status of the koala in Queensland be downgraded and broadened to “vulnerable” throughout the state.
However, the recommendation is yet to be accepted by Environment Minister Andrew Powell.
Since 2004, the koala has been threatened and classified as “vulnerable” in the south-east Queensland bio-region, stretching from Gladstone south to the border and west to Toowoomba.
In the rest of the state, it is classified as threatened, but of “low concern”.
Queensland’s Species Technical Committee, the independent watchdog for the conservation status of fauna and flora in Queensland, has recommended the change.
Species Technical Committee chairman John Neldner, the senior science leader at the Queensland Herbarium, said there would be no change in the state’s south-east. “But for everywhere else in Queensland, our recommendation raises its status from least concern, to vulnerable,” he said.
A “vulnerable status” would require large projects that impact on koala habitats would have to be referred back to the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection.
Dr Neldner said the committee recommended the change because it mirrored the same situation as the federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
In May 2012, the koala was listed as vulnerable along the east coast by the federal government.
Queensland had, until this recommendation, resisted a state-wide “vulnerable” listing for the koala.
“The recommendation was made late last year, but that recommendation still has to be ratified by the Environment Minister under the Nature Conservation Act,” Dr Neldner said.
He said it was wrong the committee recommended the koala be classified as “endangered”.
Dr Neldner referred all other questions on the issue to Mr Powell’s office, which was unable to answer why the recommendation had not been adopted.
The Queensland government is yet to release updated figures for koala population counts in the Redlands and Pine Rivers areas that were finished two years ago.
The 2010 koala population data, released in January 2012, estimated there were just 2000 koalas in the Redlands area in 2010, a 65 per cent decline since 1999.
In Pine Rivers, now part of Moreton Bay Regional Council, the population of koalas has dropped 40 per cent from 4600 to 2700, according to figures from 2008.
In November, Mr Powell said the Newman government had invested $22.5 million between 2012 and 2015 to strategically acquire koala habitat for preservation.
In October 2013, Mr Powell’s Environment Department dismissed the last two koala experts who previously worked on the Koala Coast research project.