By Darren Cartwright, AAP Updated March 10, 2012, 4:16 pm
Liberal National Party leader Campbell Newman has been left red-faced over his boo-boo of calling koalas “bears”.
He was announcing a $26.5 million pledge to help preserve the koala when he made the blooper on Saturday.
“We do have an announcement today about $26 million of funding for koala bears and their protection over the next four years,” Mr Newman told reporters.
Asked if he realised koalas were not bears, he replied: “I know, but we all like to call them that.”
Mr Newman said the LNP would put aside $22.5 million to acquire koala habitats for preservation, $3.2 million for researching and $800,000 to help organisations to carry out rescue and rehabilitation services.
Besides being chipped about calling koalas bears, Mr Newman’s policy was also criticised by the Australian Koala Foundation.
Chief executive Deborah Tabart said throwing money at buying koala habitats was not the way to stop the decline of the animals’ numbers in southeast Queensland.
Ms Tabart told AAP the government needs to update and correct its mapping of koala habitats and koala numbers.
She said the foundation had spent $8 million researching koalas, and government money alone was not the answer. Koalas should be listed as critically endangered in southeast Queensland and vulnerable across the state, she said.
“Throwing money at this will not solve the problem,” Ms Tabart told AAP.
“Koalas get sick and die because their trees have been cut down.
“AKF has given the Queensland government a list of trees that must be protected but that has fallen on deaf ears to Labor and now clearly the LNP.
“Currently the koala is listed as vulnerable in southeast Queensland, which means koalas in other areas are listed as common and they get absolutely no protection from coal seal gas mining, coal mining or the development industry.”
She said Mr Newman was avoiding tackling the biggest threat to koala numbers, which was mining and land development.
“Showing a commitment to koala conservation means not pandering to development and it is clear that Mr Newman is doing just this,” Ms Tabart said.
“Schoolchildren would also I suspect chastise Mr Newman for calling them a ‘bear’.”
Environment Minister Vicky Darling said the LNP’s pledge was almost half of Labor’s commitment of spending $45.5 million over five years on koala conservation, with most of it spent on habitat acquisition and rehabilitation.