ENVIRONMENT Minister Andrew Powell is remaining tight-lipped on whether he will increase the level of protection for koalas from “vulnerable” to “endangered”.
This week he refused to comment on whether he, or his department, had received a recommendation to raise the level of protection for koalas in South East Queensland, following a May 2012 departmental report into threatened species.
Australia Koala Foundation chief executive Deborah Tabart said Mr Powell was “sitting on” a recommendation to his department to increase the status.
The 2012 Environment Department report, Threatened Species Scientific Committee, showed koala mortality rates were “unsustainable” in South East Queensland.
It fingered Redland City, Ipswich and Pine Rivers as three areas with the highest koala deaths in the south-east.
The report also showed 15,644 koalas died in the south-east between 1997 and 2011, while the Labor Party was in office.
Ms Tabart said it was important the Minister revealed if there had been a recommendation to increase the koala’s status before Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney rules on whether a Mount Cotton quarry can extend operations.
Mr Seeney is expected to rule on Barro Group’s $25million quarry development application, which includes extending its quarry licence into koala habitat at Mount Cotton for 50 years.
Barro plans to “move” koala populations around the quarry site, suggesting koalas will shift into a 130-hectare conservation area around the quarry.
Redland City Council has twice rejected the application.
However, Ms Tabart said the “bigger question” was the state government’s response to its own Threatened Species Scientific Committee.
“I believe that they are sitting on that nomination,” Ms Tabart said.
“We understand the recommendation means either ‘critically endangered’ or ‘endangered’,” she said.
“The point is that it has been with Minister Powell for a year, that is the real issue,” Ms Tabart said.
“And in the meantime the Barro Quarry has just kept on.”
Of those deaths, 1144 were killed by dogs, 4055 hit by cars, 3516 died from disease, 5757 died from a combination of factors and 1172 from other causes.