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Koala endangered listing must push NSW Government to protect habitat

Today’s announcement that koalas will be finally listed as Endangered under the Biodiversity Conservation Act is a huge wake up call for protecting koala habitat in New South Wales.   

“The devastating endangered listing of koalas comes as no surprise in a state where the government refuses to protect habitat. Koala numbers have been in freefall for years and the NSW Government must act immediately to protect their habitat” Nature Conservation Council Deputy Chief Executive Jacqui Mumford said.  

"The reality is koalas are dwindling across New South Wales and we don’t have a proper mechanism to protect their habitat.”  

“If you want to save koalas you have to protect their trees. It is not complex. But koala habitat continues to be destroyed because of weak government policy that prioritises land clearance for grazing, agriculture, urbanisation, timber harvesting and mining.”  

“The recently released NSW Koala Strategy was inadequate for protecting the species and we are seriously lacking a state-wide mechanism to bring this iconic species back to a healthy population. Any party looking to lead NSW into the future needs to have this as a commitment.” 

“We are calling on the NSW Government to immediately:  

  • Ban the destruction of koala habitat, on both public and private land;  
  • End native forest logging; and   
  • Expand the National Parks estate to protect high quality koala habitat including the proposed Great Koala National Park”   

The NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee found: 

“Human activities including deforestation and land clearance for grazing, agriculture, urbanisation, timber harvesting, mining and other activities have resulted in loss, fragmentation and degradation of koala habitats” (page 3) 

“Large areas of forest and woodland within the koala’s range were cleared between 2000 and 2017 (Ward et al. 2019) with clearing for grazing accounting for most of this loss of koala habitat”. “Land clearing continues to impact habitat across the koala’s range” (page 3) 

“Clearing of native vegetation’ is listed as a Key Threatening Process under the Act.” (page 4) 

“Modelled climatic suitability from 2010 to 2030 indicates a 38-52% reduction in available habitat for the koala and a 62% reduction in koala habitat by 2070 has been forecast” (page 4) 

“... it is facing a very high risk of extinction in the near future...” (page 5) 

Government fails to rule out burning native forest for electricity

The Nature Conservation Council is deeply disappointed that the NSW Government hasn't done more to plug loopholes and shut down attempts to marketise our native forests in its response to the Sustainability of energy supply and resources in NSW inquiry.  

Jacqui Mumford, Deputy Chief Executive of NCC: “The NSW Government has missed an opportunity to provide additional protections to our increasingly vulnerable native forests, and the wildlife they support.  

“Burning trees for electricity is backwards; it destroys habitat for NSW’s iconic species and is dirty, costly and unnecessary. 

“When the government says that only native forest residues are allowed to be woodchipped and burnt to generate electricity, they don't say that this can include entire trees.i 

“Proposed projects such as the Verdant Biomass Power Station in Singleton, if approved, will create a market for bulldozing smaller and wonky trees that should be left standing in the forest to provide critical habitat to koalas and other species.” 

The Verdant Biomass Power Station in Singleton could burn 850,000 tonnes of biomass per year, sourced within 300km of the Singleton. It could see a massive increase in native forest logging on the north coast of NSW, if the Perrottet government neglects to amend the definition of wood residues. 

“This report comes only a week after the koala was uplisted to endangered, and was a real opportunity to take a step in the right direction. 

“This Inquiry made it clear that the Protection of the Environment Operations (General) Regulation 2009 must be amended to close loopholes that allow native forests to be woodchipped and burnt for electricity. The Government has ignored the advice of experts.” 

Talk to your MP about koala protection

Koalas have now been listed endangered by the federal government. We need to the state government to also list the koala as endangered and implement strong protection for koala habitat.

Over the last few years the National Party has been the most threatening predator of koalas — allowing more land clearing and blocking action to protect koalas and their habitat.  That's why it is vital that Australians talk to their local MP and ensure they know that their constituents are appalled that koalas are heading towards extinction and that real action needs to be taken to protect koalas and their habitat.

Sign up to talk to your local MP about koala protection.  We will link you up with others in your community, help organise the meeting and provide you with material to help the conversation. 

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Koala endangered listing must compel NSW Government to act

Today’s announcement that koalas will be finally listed as Endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act is a huge wake up call for protecting koala habitat in New South Wales.  

“The endangered listing of koalas is a devastating reflection of the reality for koalas in Australia. Koala numbers have been in freefall thanks to habitat destruction. The NSW Government should follow suit and list koalas as endangered under the Biodiversity Conservation Act” Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian said. 

“The Commonwealth finally acknowledging that koalas are endangered is good news, and should now prompt NSW to follow suit so that they can be properly managed, starting with protecting habitat” 

“If you want to save koalas you have to protect their trees. It is not complex. But koala habitat continues to be destroyed because of weak government policy at both state and federal levels.” 

“The infamous koala wars of 2020 has now seen the New South Wales Government  sit on its hands while this iconic species has been in decline. It’s time they resolved the impasse on land clearing and private native forestry codes and properly protect habitat” 

“The NSW Koala strategy expired on 30 June last year and we are yet to see a new one. There are many opportunities for the NSW Government to drastically improve how koala habitat is managed in this state’  

“We are calling on the NSW Government to immediately: 

  • Ban the destruction of koala habitat, on both public and private land; 
  • End native forest logging; and  
  • Expand the National Parks estate to protect high quality koala habitat including the proposed Great Koala National Park”  

Christmas comes early for Port Macquarie koala colony

Koala lovers are celebrating today after almost 200 hectares of prime habitat near Port Macquarie were put beyond the reach of property developers. 

NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean announced this morning the government, with a $3.5 million contribution from Koala Conservation Australia, had bought a 194ha block of forest next to Lake Innes Nature Reserve. 

The purchase follows a long community campaign to conserve one of the best unprotected patches of koala habitat left in the district. 

“This is a great victory for the community and for the region’s koalas,” Nature Conservation Council Acting Chief Executive Jacqui Mumford said. 

“While it is a relatively small patch, it will make a significant addition to the existing nature reserve and improves the chances that koalas will persist in the area for many years to come. 

“Koala Conservation Australia has done an amazing job raising more than $3 million to ensure this land does not end up in the hands of developers who have destroyed huge areas of koala habitat around Port Macquarie. 

“It is a pity the public had to chip in to protect this land when people expect their taxes to be used to ensure the long-term survival of the species.

“But putting that aside, today is a great result for our most loved species.” 

Ms Mumford said many thousands of hectares of koala habitat in NSW were still not protected from logging, land clearing and property development, including Lend Lease’s housing development at Mt Gilead on Sydney’s southwest outskirts. 

“The government has the power to protect koalas for future generations and to honour its pledge to double koala numbers by 2050, but only if it acts swiftly and boldly to protect their habitat across the state,” Ms Mumford said. 

“Koala protections in NSW have been weakened since the National’s threatened to blow up the government because they wanted to let landholders keep bulldozing koala habitat. 

“The government’s new Koala Strategy is now well overdue, and with every month’s delay, the species edges closer to the brink.” 

Koala carers speak up

Koala carers have written to the NSW Premier saying that without koala habitat protection, their work caring for koalas can only be a Band-Aid solution.

"The continuing loss of bushland is not only forcing more koalas into care, it is making it harder every year for carers to find healthy habitat where koalas can be safely released."

They are calling for three key solutions:

  1. Strengthen koala protections in key laws and codes.
  2. Declare the 175,000ha Great Koala National Park and the 7,000ha Sandy Creek Koala Park.
  3. Protect koala habitat from intensified logging under weakened forestry regulations.  

Please email your member of NSW Parliament to alert them to this letter and implement these key protections for koalas and their habitat.


Priorities for nature and climate in the 2021 local government elections  

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Set ambitious targets for bushland and urban tree canopy cover

  • Set targets for urban trees and urban tree canopy cover. If a target already exists, review it.[1] Develop a plan to achieve the target.
  • Set a target for bushland cover. If a target already exists, review it. Develop a plan to achieve the target. Protect and restore remnant bushland, revegetate, protect significant trees
  • Enhance protections for remnant bushland and trees through Local Environment Plans and

Development Control Plans.

  • Invest more in bushland restoration through the control of weeds and feral animals.
  • Oppose removal of bushland and significant trees to enable development.[2]
  • When planning and executing bushfire hazard reduction measures, use the latest scientific advice to minimise environmental impacts.

Ensure a koala-friendly council

  • Pass the Nature Conservation Council’s Koala Friendly Council motion (available at

Create wildlife corridors

  • Identify potential wildlife corridors to link significant wildlife habitat remnants.
  • Invest in tree planting, revegetation and ongoing maintenance for these corridors.

Encourage use of native plants

  • Use more native plants in council parks and gardens.
  • Provide free native plants to home gardeners.



Clean up council operations

Set a target of net-zero emissions for all council operations by 2025 by:

  • Using 100% clean electricity for all council operations.
  • Making all council vehicles, including garbage trucks, electric.

Clean up local transport

  • Accelerate the installation of rapid charge electric vehicle stations by working with the local community, businesses and state governments.
  • Enhance active transport infrastructure by building and maintaining more and higher quality bike paths and footpaths.

Help locals, businesses and organisations slash their emissions

  • Create and implement a local-emissions reductions plans with clear targets.
  • Set ambitious energy performance standards for all new developments.

Support national and international movements to reduce emissions

  • Adopt the Climate Emergency Declaration, which is already supported by more than 2000 councils across 34 countries.[3]
  • Sign up to the Climate Council’s Cities Power Partnership, Australia’s largest local government climate network, made up of over 145 councils from across the country, representing over half of the Australian population.[4]



Ensure a diverse and drought-resilient water system

  • Oppose the construction of new dams or other rainfall dependent water sources.
  • Invest in system-wide water efficiency.
  • Investigate stormwater harvesting and recycling.
  • Investigate the use of purified recycled water.

Reduce water waste

  • Encourage water saving in households with education and water saving devices.
  • Investigate current water wastage across the LGA and implement ways to reduce waste.
  • Subsidise rainwater tanks for residential use across the LGA.

Restore our rivers and waterways

  • Restore natural wetlands for benefits including stormwater management.
  • Set ambitious targets to improve the health of all rivers within the LGA.
  • Invest in the active restoration of riparian zone vegetation.


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[1] The NSW Government has pledged to plant 1 million trees in Greater Sydney by 2022 and 5 million by 2030. It also wants to increase tree canopy cover in Greater Sydney from 16% to 40% by 2030. See Total Environment Centre and NSW Government.

[2] If a project is considered critical infrastructure, apply best-practice approaches to offsetting. First, try to avoid impacts entirely. Second, if impacts are unavoidable, minimise them by modifying the proposal. Third, as a last resort, offset the impacts by restoring and permanently protecting similar habitat nearby.



Sign up to be a Koala Champion!

The koala population in NSW has been plummeting for decades, primarily due to development and deforestation leading to immense habitat loss. 

Koalas don’t have a voice or the deep pockets of developers, they need the voice of human champions to campaign and lobby for their survival. They need community groups around NSW to organise to protect koala habitat. If we work together from the ground up, we can prevent koalas from going extinct by 2050.

If you sign up, we can connect you with other koala champions and groups in your area, or even help you start a group.

Sign up now to become a koala champion and help us save koalas!

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Rallies across NSW on World Environment Day demand action to save koalas

People have rallied across the state today, calling on the NSW Government to strengthen protections for koalas and their habitat. 

More than 500 people gathered in Hyde Park, Sydney, and were addressed by a range of speakers, including:  

  • Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian, 
  • Animal Justice Party MLC Mark Pearson, 
  • Greens MLC David Shoebridge,
  • Muruwari and Budjiti man Uncle Bruce Shillingsworth, and
  • Bob Brown Foundation Campaign Organiser Doro Babeck. 

Rallies were also held at Lismore, Bowral, Coolongolook (Port Stephens), Hornsby, Ku-ring-gai Chase and Tahmoor.   

Mr Gambian said: “Koalas in NSW are on death row. Business as usual is simply no longer an option – this is an emergency that requires drastic action. Their numbers were plummeting before the Black Summer bushfires killed thousands of koalas and incinerated millions of hectares of forest. We need a step-change in our conservation efforts or koalas will join the Tasmanian Tiger as an emblem of our failure as ecological stewards.  

“Any credible strategy for the species’ long-term future must include a strict ban on the destruction of koala forests and significant investment in new nature reserves, habitat restoration and ecological research. This issue is above politics – it is now time all parties worked together to implement the solutions we need.” 

Doro Babeck from Bob Brown Foundation said: “We must do all to protect this iconic species from extinction. The world is looking at us and what we do to protect them. We must stop logging their habitat, whether it is on private land or public. If we can’t even stop koalas from becoming extinct, what hope do we have?   

“People love koalas all over the world, yet, here, we have a government that sits on its hands and does nothing to protect them. Koalas are dying the death of a thousand cuts, as development after development gets approved and each time we say ‘oh, it’s just a few hectares lost here and there, it won’t affect the koala population overall’. But it does affect the koala population as we need to look at their cumulative effect.”   

Muruwari and Budjiti man Bruce Shillingsworth said: “Koala’s are First Nations totems that need to be protected. Our totem’s die, we die.”  

Alea Babeck, SS4C youth activist: “This has become the most urgent issue. Land clearing and logging are huge contributors to the climate emergency we are facing. We need our forests as vital carbon sinks and as habitat for our wildlife, like koalas. We are logging more forests than any other developed country. We should be doing all we can to protect the remaining wild places, not cut them down for woodchips. We can’t afford to do this anymore.”  


The Nature Conservation Council in March launched its Koalas Need Trees campaign, which is underpinned by a policy agenda that includes: 

  • Adding of 200,000 hectares of koala forest to the national parks estate; 
  • Banning the destruction of koala habitat, on both public and private land; 
  • Setting up a $1 billion koala conservation and restoration fund; and 
  • Ending native forest logging.   


Koala populations in NSW have plummeted in the past 30 years - estimated to be fewer than 20,000 before the Black Summer Bushfires that destroyed almost 25% of koala habitat on public land. 

In late 2019, the NSW Government introduced a new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy (Koala SEPP 2019) that marginally increased legal protections for koalas. 

In late 2020, the National Party threatened to “blow up” the Coalition if the SEPP was not scrapped. The Nationals objected to the policy controlling logging on private land (private native forestry) and land clearing for farming and property development.   

To end the war, the Coalition partners agreed to: 

  • Limit the application of the new Koala SEPP to  Sydney, the Central Coast and Blue Mountains;  
  • Exclude rural areas from the new Koala SEPP; and   
  • “Protect” koalas in rural areas through amended land-clearing and logging codes. 

Conservation groups and environmental lawyers have grave concerns the new codes will weaken rather than strengthen protections. 

The process for developing those new codes, a new Koala Strategy, and the timing for the release of both, have still not been made public. 

Conservation movement ready to work with the new Labor leadership on koalas, climate, water and forestry

Statement by Nature Conservation Council Chief Executive Chris Gambian 

“We welcome Chris Minns’ election as leader of NSW Labor and look forward to working with the new Labor leadership team to put climate action and the protection of nature at the top of the political agenda. 

“The people want an effective Opposition with a comprehensive set of policies to tackle our most urgent environmental issues and force the government to compete for votes in these vital areas of public policy.  

“We hope that the new Labor leadership team can start a race to the top against the Coalition in the critical areas of koala conservation, climate action and the reform of water and forestry management. 

“Labor has an opportunity and a responsibility to come up with a plan to end native forest logging in a way that supports workers into a sustainable plantation-based industry. 

“And Labor must take up the fight on land clearing, especially terrible proposals that would accelerate the extinction crisis for koalas. 

“The Coalition government is taking strong action on the energy transition and national parks, but is getting wrong on water, koalas, logging and land clearing. 

“The new leader must lead on climate action policies that go beyond a just energy sector transition and includes electric vehicles and agriculture. And end the false choice between jobs and a livable climate.  

“Labor must recommit to supporting a healthy Murray-Darling Basin through better water management and flow targets. 

“It must also show leadership on the pressing issue of native forest logging. Our forests and the wildlife they support are dying because of unsustainable logging.”