Koala protection funds will go quickly with $22.5 million allocated over the next three years with much needed land buys across 10 councils in South East Queensland.
LAND ON TABLE FOR KOALA REFUGES
Owen Jacques | 15th August 2012 5:29 AM
Minister Andrew Powell with India.
THE state has put $22.5 million on the table to snap up acreages for koala habitats throughout south-east Queensland.
As swathes of land are consumed by development, koala populations have become fragmented, unable to reach their potential mates dwelling on the other side of a highway or housing estate.
At a press conference around the back of the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, Environment Minister Andrew Powell detailed the scheme while cradling a koala raised in captivity.
He said the $22.5 million would be funnelled into buying land between the Gold Coast, Sunshine Coast and west to Lockyer Valley, Ipswich and Somerset.
Landholders will deliver an expression of interest and, if suitable, negotiations could begin.
The blocks must be larger than 10ha, be connected to an established koala habitat and be free of contamination.
“The intent is to set up nature refuges or national parks,” Mr Powell said.
“It’s a case of working with various organisations so we can keep providing the great outcomes for the koalas.
“My staff will be sitting down with councils to make sure we identify the right parcels of land.”
Australia Zoo curator Kelsey Engle said although diseases, including chlamydia and the enigmatic retrovirus, ravaged the species, protected habitats were vital.
Ms Engle said if the community failed them, koalas could die out in parts of Queensland within a decade.
“We see 70 koalas coming through here every month,” she said.
“You have to think that is a lot of koalas in not that big an area.”
The hospital is often delivered injured or sick koalas from across south-east Queensland because of its specialisation in koala health.
Expressions of interest for land opened yesterday and will close on October 31.
Mr Powell said he was confident that land would be secured.
“We’ve already had some expressions of interest,” Mr Powell said.
KOALA PROTECTION FUNDS TIPPED TO GO QUICK
The Sunshine Coast Koala and Wildlife Rescue Service says the Queensland Government will need to spend more money to protect koalas.
The Government has allocated $22.5 million over the next three years to buy land in areas where koalas are under threat.
The plan applies to 10 council areas in south-east Queensland and rescue service president Ray Chambers says it is a step in the right direction.
He says the money is likely to be exhausted quickly.
“You have a look at Noosa, for example, you’d suck $10 million up straight away there, so it will go quick but they’ve really got to work on now whether the koala numbers are,” he said.
“Like Noosa is virtually the only coastal fringe on the coast, so that’s going to be the high value area, the same through Redlands … on the waterfront there, so it is going to go fast so we need to work out deals.”
FUNDS FOR KOALA SANCTUARIES ‘INADEQUATE’
Updated: 19:24, Monday August 20, 2012
The Queensland government will be lucky to buy ‘a postage stamp’ with the money it has earmarked for koala sanctuaries, the Australian Koala Foundation says.
The group says the $22.5 million the government has set aside to buy back land in the state’s southeast should be spent on other initiatives to help save koalas.
‘I’m not against buying land … but think about current land prices in southeast Queensland,’ the foundation’s chief executive Deborah Tabart told AAP.
‘It’ll buy a postage stamp.
‘Let’s assume it was a significant amount of money – it still depends on which land you choose.’
Ms Tabart believes the government’s koala habitat maps are inaccurate and out of date, and some of the money would be better spent addressing that problem.
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection Andrew Powell said the maps, which are available on the department’s website, were completed in 2009 and refined in early 2010.
‘The maps are based on a habitat model for koalas that was developed with the oversight of a scientific technical committee of leading koala experts, and verified by extensive ground truthing,’ he told AAP.
Where the maps are used for development decisions, developers are provided with a method of checking their accuracy on the site to make sure values are still accurate.
Mr Powell said his department is also developing a plan to update the koala maps on a regular cycle to maintain their accuracy, using sources such as more up to date satellite imagery and regional ecosystem data.
In April, the federal government said koalas in Queensland, NSW and the ACT would be classified as vulnerable, on advice from the Threatened Species Scientific Committee.