While NSW Premier Perrottet continues to ignore the plight of our endangered koalas, voices against his malicious intentions are growing louder, writes Dailan Pugh.
THE KOALA WARS were briefly reignited by a Perrottet Government bill introduced to NSW Parliament last week to stop any core koala habitat identified in the future prohibiting logging, before being defeated by government members vowing to vote against it.
This was the National Party’s attempt to exempt logging from both Local Environment Plans and restrictions on core koala habitat. It follows the Coalition’s removal of protection for koala high-use areas on state forests in 2018.
The Perrottet Government seeks to distract the community with the pretence of doubling koala numbers and tree plantings, as they seek to systematically remove protections for occupied koala habitat and community rights to protect them.
The NSW Government’s Environmental Planning and Assessment Amendment (Private Native Forestry) Bill 2022 (PNF Bill) intended to follow through on a commitment, given by the Liberals to the National Party at the height of the koala wars in 2020, that core koala habitat identified in the future will not be able to prohibit logging.
The bill went further, intending that in the future any high conservation value forest that a council includes in an environmental zone will also be able to be logged, while removing the council’s ability to require consent for logging and extending logging approvals from 15 to 30 years.
Councils prohibit forestry over 167,000 hectares (6 per cent) and require consent for forestry over 600,000 hectares (25 per cent) of northeast NSW’s private native forests. Consent gives councils the opportunity to require Development Applications that take into account environmental values, as well as considering affected neighbours, truck routes and the condition and safety of roads and bridges.
The PNF Bill was intended to disenfranchise local communities and hand control over to the National Party-controlled Local Land Services.
The PNF Bill attempted to resurrect key clauses from the failed Local Land Services Amendment (Miscellaneous) Bill, which was introduced to the lower house in October 2020 at the peak of the koala wars.
Dubbed the “koala-killing bill”, it came to a halt in November when Upper House Liberal Catherine Cusack took a principled stand by crossing the floor and referring the bill to the upper house Planning and Environment Committee for review.
It was then declared dead, until this reincarnation.
With an election looming, the positive public reaction to Catherine Cusack’s stand seems to have inspired some of her colleagues to threaten to cross the floor this time, including Nationals MP Geoff Provest and Liberals Shayne Mallard and Felicity Wilson.
It was clear that the PNF Bill was doomed when key upper house member Reverend Fred Nile publicly announced his opposition to the bill, leaving NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet with no option but to reluctantly bury the bill for a second time.
Unfortunately, these ongoing attempts to remove protections for koalas are far from dead, as they are a high priority for the National Party and will be resurrected again if the Perrottet Government is returned in March. The koala wars are not over and while koalas are losing, they and their supporters are still battling on.
Dailan Pugh was a co-founder of the North East Forest Alliance in 1989 and is currently its president. He has spent most of his time over this period working on forest conservation for which he was awarded an Order of Australia in 2003.
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