Noosa, Koala Population

Hon. GW ELMES (Noosa—LNP) (Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and Multicultural Affairs and Minister Assisting the Premier) (3.01 pm): I was disturbed recently to see in one of my local papers the headline for a story which said that the last koala may be lost. The content of the story presented a familiar enough scenario in that it dealt with the impact of land clearing on the Sunshine Coast koala habitat. The story focused on a constituent’s concern that land clearing in her area would see the end to what she said was the last remaining koala from hundreds that had lived in the area until about 20 years ago. Koalas are iconic and they are listed on both the state and federal threatened species list. We must do whatever we can to protect them while balancing the requirements of development and providing housing for the state’s ever-increasing population. That requires all parties involved to work together to devise strategies to support their preservation. It is just not good enough for environmentalists to say that development is bad, just as it is not acceptable for developers to push ahead with projects without considering environmental impacts.

The largest threat to our koala population does not come from reduced habitat caused by housing development. It ranks lower than death and injury from motor vehicle and domestic dogs. Most koalas hit by cars or ravaged by dogs are killed or so badly injured that they need to be put down. Those that do survive after treatment are routinely returned to the area in which they were found. It is a policy which has been in force for years. I am not sure it is the most appropriate course of action, because returned koalas are often mauled by a dog or hit by a car all over again. The second issue impacting upon koala numbers is the practice of euthanising female koalas that are found to have chlamydia. The Newman government has invested $3.2 million into research to find a cure. In the meantime, there is no reason why treated koalas cannot be released back into the wild. Experience has shown that adhering to the policies of the previous government is not serving our koalas well.

I have talked previously to the environment minister about finding an alternate way of dealing with these twin issues which are affecting the state’s koala population. I am working on an alternate strategy involving Noosa which will involve greater safety for injured and diseased koalas and improve their survival rates. Right in the centre of Noosa we have the national park. During the 1950s there was a transfer of koalas into the park organised by Dr Arthur Harold. Unfortunately, the population has dwindled over time to now just a handful, if that. The park is capable of sustaining a significant koala population. There is room, there is food and it is safe. It is early days yet for the strategy, but there are details to be discussed and I believe it offers a promise as a way forward to protect our koala population.