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Speech - Koala National Park and Funding Welcomed

22nd September 2023.

Koala National Park and Funding Welcomed.

As chair of the Parliamentary Friends of Koalas and someone who brought a petition of 20,977 signatures to the previous Parliament, I am ecstatic about the announcement of the Koala National Park. I thank the Minister and Government for listening to our community in Macarthur.

The koala population of Wollondilly needs all the protection it can get. With animal experts locally caring for these koalas the extra funding for the centre, as well as the extra crossings on Appin Road, is going to go a long way to ensuring the Koala population will be here for tomorrow.

The additional funding earmarked for the protection of our koalas is a significant development, It reflects our commitment to safeguarding these iconic and endangered creatures and their natural habitat. I wholeheartedly thank the Minister for the Environment, the Hon, Penny Sharpe, for her support and advocacy for protection of koalas and their habitat.

I have campaigned for koalas since my first days in Parliament and I will continue to advocate for their protection, and the enhancement of the existing populations. The introduction of the Appin Road crossings is a pivotal step towards ensuring the safety and conservation of the koala population of Wollondilly, well known as the last chlamydia free koala group in New South Wales.

My constituents actively - and all too regularly - contact me with news of another koala killed by a car on Appin road, so this funding must be quickly followed by action. These crossings will play a crucial role in reducing the risks they face in areas where previous the government’s planning approvals have seen the senseless encroachment of development on key koala habitat areas.

I must also draw attention to the work that is remaining to be done on ensuring that koalas do not move from an endangered to a critically endangered or even extinct in the wild status. Loss of habitat and biodiversity due to urban sprawl is a critical challenge faced by koalas. The  Cumberland Plains Conservation Plan (CPCP), the very document intended to outline their protection, is woefully inadequate and - regarding koala sightings - often inaccurate.  The CPCP must be amended to reflect the real-world number and location of koalas, and protect the land that koalas actually live on - not hand it over to developers who can offset their destruction of koala habitat with useless bio-credits elsewhere.

Further, Koalas cannot be simply moved to a new location through a process of translocation, a strategy that the CPCP relies heavily on.

Today’s announcement is just the start of the hard work that needs to be done on behalf of koalas. I look forward to continuing the work that I have commenced in ensuring a safe and prosperous future for koalas in NSW.

$80 million is being invested by the NSW Government to protect koalas and secure their habitat in south-west Sydney.

The 2023-24 NSW Budget provides $48 million to help establish a new National Park along the Georges River between Long Point and Appin, which will eventually cover up to 1,830 hectares. The suburbs of Long Point, Ingleburn, Minto Heights, Kentlyn, Airds, St Helens Park, Gilead and Appinwill host the new park.

The investment will accelerate the addition of more than 1,000 hectares of public land to the NSW national park system within the next three years. The transfer and reservation of these lands will deliver long-lasting conservation benefits for Sydney’s largest and one of the state’s healthiest koala populations.

The NSW Government is also providing $26 million to create koala-friendly crossings in south-west Sydney. Two will allow animals to cross below Appin Road, and a third will cross a canal.

$5.7 million will go towards koala care in the Macarthur area, to look after local populations of the iconic animal.

This $80 million dollar package for koalas in south-west Sydney is part of the new $172 million investment by the NSW Government for the conservation of koalas in the wild.