Environment Minister accepts interim findings of independent Koala Expert Panel
Published Friday, 10 March, 2017 at 09:00 AM
Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef
The Honourable Steven Miles
Environment Minister Steven Miles today (Friday) released an interim report by the Koala Expert Panel set up last year by the Palaszczuk Government to explore ways to better protect koalas in the state’s south-east.
Mr Miles said the independent panel supported the development of new koala habitat mapping between Noosa and the Gold Coast, as well as areas west of Brisbane.
He said the panel also supported an improved monitoring program and recommendations for developing a strategy to focus koala conservation efforts in priority areas to ensure koala populations persist in the wild across the region.
“The panel of experts has been working with the Palaszczuk Government to identify a range of actions designed to halt the alarming decline in koala numbers in South-East Queensland.
“I’m pleased to receive this interim report by the Koala Expert Panel ahead of its final recommendations due mid-year.
“I welcome their support for the approach this Government has undertaken and I thank them for their invaluable input and advice in the implementation of these projects,” Mr Miles said.
University of Queensland Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes, who chairs the expert koala panel, said the interim report identified a number of key ongoing issues which threaten koala populations in South-East Queensland.
“These include issues relating to strategic policy settings, threat management, planning processes, mapping and monitoring,” Associate Professor Rhodes said.
“The panel will provide advice on these issues in its final recommendations due later this year but it’s good to see progress being made in the key area of improving koala habitat mapping in the meantime.
“The panel also supports the State Government’s plans to restructure the koala monitoring program and we have provided advice to the EHP team responsible for this task.”
Mr Miles said officers from the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection were working closely with the expert panel to make sure improved koala habitat mapping can better inform targeted management actions and future conservation efforts.
“The existing maps were previously updated in 2010 and 2013 and since then there have been a number of technological advances,” he said.
“The new maps will be able to get down to a level of detail which previously was simply not possible and that will contribute greatly to the identification and protection of important habitat.
“Associate Professor Rhodes and his colleagues have provided useful insights which will guide the third prong of the Government’s immediate measures to halt the koala’s decline – identification of specific areas where we can best focus our conservation efforts.”
Mr Miles said the panel’s final report would include specific recommendations for koala policy and management in South-East Queensland as well as how progress can be evaluated over time.
He said the terms of reference had been amended to also seek the expert panel’s advice role in providing input into key planning instruments, including the draft State Planning Policy and the new draft regional plan for South East Queensland, ShapingSEQ.
“The Palaszczuk Government is committed to ensuring viable and healthy koala populations in South East Queensland, and across the state,” he said.
“That’s why we’ve invested an additional $12.1 million to boost koala conservation measures and improve population surveys over the next four years, and a further $2.6 million per annum for ongoing funding for koala protection”.
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