NSW koala protections coming 'soon'

NSW wildlife groups want to see the state government's plan to protect its koala population.
NSW wildlife groups want to see the state government's plan to protect its koala population.

Wildlife protection groups are calling on the NSW government to release a promised strategy they hope will give greater protections to koalas.

A letter signed by 17 wildlife rescue groups and koala conservationists urges Premier Dominic Perrottet to protect koala habitats from logging and development, and strengthen laws to protect the vulnerable marsupials.

The groups commended extra funding in the budget for koala rescue and rehabilitation but want the government's 2021-2026 koala strategy to "meaningfully" address critical issues facing the state's koala population.

The government investment "will be only a band-aid solution" if it doesn't, they say.

Along with strengthened laws, the letter calls for designated national parks for koala habitat and protections against logging.

Environment Minister Matt Kean in October told a budget estimates hearing that a $193 million program to protect the NSW koala population would be announced "very soon".

It was a matter of public record that he did not believe the government was doing enough to protect koalas and as long as he was the environment minister he would "stand up and argue for koalas very strongly", he said.

Mr Kean is also the treasurer and could be replaced in the role of environment minister in a cabinet reshuffle expected over summer.

Mr Kean told AAP on Wednesday his priority was "to ensure our iconic wild koala populations not only survive but thrive well into the future" as the government aims to double koala populations by 2050.

The updated koala strategy would outline the government's plan to protect and expand koala habitat and would be released soon, he said.

Greens environment and wildlife spokeswoman Cate Faehrmann told AAP the government's promise to double koala populations "isn't genuine because they have no plan to protect the remaining koala habitat so necessary to achieve this goal".

The government "must act to protect every last bit of koala habitat we have left" if it was serious about stopping extinction.

The 2019-20 summer bushfires exacerbated the threat of extinction but in their letter to the premier, conservationists point to habitat loss as "the primary underlying cause of koala displacement, injury and death".

Koalas looking for new habitats were also at risk from dog attacks and being hit by cars.

"It would be a shameful legacy to lose this species when it is clearly within our power to avert such a tragedy," the letter said.

Australian Associated Press