Skip navigation

NSW State Koala Conference: The Vanishing

2022 Koala Conference Statement 

Hosted by Catherine Cusack, Nature Conservation Council of NSW, WWF, NSW National Parks Association, North East Forest Alliance, and North Coast Environment Council.

Date and time

Saturday, 29 October 2022
9:00 am – 5:00 pm AEDT


Cavanbah Centre
Harbour Dr
Coffs Harbour, NSW 2450


Our beloved koala populations are vanishing.

The 2019 NSW Parliamentary Inquiry made it crystal clear - we are witnessing an extinction event which, without decisive action, will see koalas gone completely by 2050.

This Coffs Harbour Koala Conference is a summit meeting of scientists, conservation groups and concerned citizens to appeal to all political parties to take the dramatic corrective action needed to save NSW koalas in the wild.

The March 2023 NSW election is just months away. We know the state government has regulatory power over forests, land use and development. The next Government’s policies will decide the fate of koalas in NSW.

Together, we will launch an agenda demanding action on a scale that is now required to arrest and reverse ‘the vanishing’.

The full day conference will focus on loss of koala habitat, with presentations covering science and policy, as well as the experiences of local communities, to demonstrate the problem, the inadequacy of the current NSW Government policy and what is needed to turn around the loss of koala habitat.

Come along to connect, learn and send a strong message to our political leaders in the lead up to the next state election.

More information on speakers will be announced shortly. We are investigating including a live remote streaming option - stay tuned.

Morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea provided.

Participants are warmly invited to a dinner on the evening of the conference, hosted by the North Coast Environment Council. Please select the dinner add-on option with your ticket.

This event is being coordinated by Catherine Cusack (Member of the NSW Legislative Council 2003-2022) and organised collaboratively with NSW environmental NGOs, including the NSW Nature Conservation Council, NSW National Parks Association, WWF, North Coast Environment Council and North East Forest Alliance.


Enquiries: [email protected]



Why 'the vanishing'?

NSW koala populations are vanishing in our lifetimes.

In 1991 scientists surveyed the 535,000 ha Pilliga Forests between Coonabarabran and Narribri - the largest remaining tract of NSW native forest, west of the Great Divide. Of 280 sites mapped, 240 of the 280 sites mapped had koalas present. But when the surveys were repeated in 2011 only 44 of those 210 sites still had koalas - a loss of koalas from 166 sites. Of the 70 sites that had no koalas in 1991 only one showed evidence of koalas in 2011.

Devastated scientists calculated a 79% decline in Pilliga sites with koalas present.

“I have worked in the forests of eastern Australia for 50 years….I have carried out a large number of surveys of koalas and … I have observed the loss of koala habitat and the decline in koala populations across a fairly large area of northern New South Wales, from the Pilliga forests through the Tweed, Byron, Ballina shires and the State Forests of northern New South Wales.

I do not consider that government is yet serious about koala conservation. We have got legislation that is opposed to koala conservation and we are seeing a continual erosion of legislation that has been designed to protect koalas… the point I really want to stress today: this lack of conservation, lack of protection of local populations, because loss of local populations equals extinction.”

(David Milledge, Ecologist)

Then in 2019 the Pilliga koala sites were revisited.

“Nothing is working. This animal is declining.

We have lost the Pilliga koalas, the largest population that once existed in New South Wales was known to be many thousands strong as recently as 20 years ago. In 2014 we were aware of the fact that there had been an 80 per cent population decline and we had some discussions with OEH and others about what needed to be done to secure the remaining populations…. In 2019 at the request of [OEH] we did 107 field sites across the southern parts of the Pilliga, through the Warrumbungles and into the northern parts of Gilgandra shire, and did not find one scat.

They are gone. How can we let that happen?”

(Dr Steve Phillips, Principal Scientist, Biolink)

The vanishing of Pilliga koalas is one of too many stories of lost koala colonies. It must spur us to action.