Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley welcomes "cessation of disagreement" on NSW koala policy

Ley breathes easier as NSW agrees on koala policy

Federal Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley has welcomed a "cessation of disagreement" within the New South Wales government on koala policy.

The state government has reached an agreement on new environmental planning regulations for koala habitats.

In September 2020, NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro threatened to blow up the coalition if concessions weren't made to rural property owners for protection measures over koala habitat.

Member for Port Macquarie Leslie Williams did not support Barilaro's move, describing his actions as "politically reckless and unreasonable" which achieved nothing other than to destablise the government.

The Nationals were concerned the Koala SEPP 2020, which came into effect in March 2020, would limit land use on farms and restrict the clearing on land.

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After months of negotiation, the government on Monday (March 8) announced that rural NSW land zoned for farming or forestry, labelled "core rural zones", will not be subject to the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) 2021.

Mr Barilaro said the compromise means NSW farmers will now not be "strangled by red tape"

The Greens, and conservation groups, believe the deal struck between the Liberals and Nationals is a victory for the logging industry.

NSW Farmers remains concerned by a lack of consultation with landholders.

President James Jackson said it was disappointing the agreement made with the Premier last year to protect koalas and farms had been torn up.

"The deputy premier has said the new SEPP cuts red tape for farmers but we have no concrete evidence that this is the case because farmers have not been consulted on the changes," he said.

"We're calling on the government, in particular the premier to ensure the new regulations won't negatively impact farm businesses.

"It doesn't make sense not to consult with farmers. We're at the forefront of koala conservation and testament to that is the fact koalas on private land are thriving compared to those on public land that are under threat from their management policies."

Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Geoff James during an inspection of the bushfire impacts at Lake Innes Nature Reserve in Port Macquarie in January 2020.

Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan, Minister for the Environment Sussan Ley and NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Geoff James during an inspection of the bushfire impacts at Lake Innes Nature Reserve in Port Macquarie in January 2020.

Ms Ley said the NSW government has faced many challenges in ensuring it has the right approach in place to ensure the protection of koala habitats and maintaining the balance with all stakeholders.

"From my observation, where there is a challenge for NSW government planning processes is in suburbs on the edge of major cities, in new residential developments, in areas where we live and where koalas like to live," Ms Ley said.

"The planning processes that NSW needs to implement are central to their response to koalas. I welcome any measures they are taking to support koala habitat.

"From a Commonwealth perspective, we are taking a leadership role with the koala as a national icon and its circumstances across the country. The $18 million koala package I announced recently includes funding for a koala audit.

"While people know in great detail where koalas are in some places, in western NSW and west Queensland for example, that knowledge isn't there and the gaps are really significant. The audit will bring that together and help us to proactively protect koalas."

The Greens have called for a moratorium on clearing critical koala habitat, saying the government already knows where the animal lives.

This story Ley breathes easier as NSW agrees on koala policy first appeared on Port Macquarie News.