23 September, 2021
Calls for council to save koalas
Pittsworth Landcare is urging Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) to allocate sufficient resources to implement practical measures to protect koalas across the region.
Councillors at last Tuesday’s Planning and Development Committee meeting voted to support the state government’s new South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy.
Pittsworth Landcare president Alastair Silcock said it was heartening to see councillors discuss the issue for the best part of an hour and unanimously support the Strategy.
“However, those discussions made it clear that Toowoomba Regional Council currently has no provisions in its planning scheme to actually protect the koala habitat,” Mr Silcock said.
“Council officers admitted TRC has little vegetation protection.
“They conceded the council has little understanding of koala ecology in the region, not much idea of their locations and no idea how many there might be.”
Research has shown previously large stable populations in Queensland west of the Great Dividing Range have declined dramatically in recent years and are at the greatest and most urgent risk from climate change.
The report also noted these populations may contain traits and genetics adapted to drought and heatwaves, which may be critical to the survival of the koala under climate change.
The plight of Central Downs koalas has been a priority for Pittsworth Landcare for the past 20 years.
The group has distributed more than 17,000 seedlings, primarily koala food trees, to more than 200 landholders over the past eight years, and is currently conducting a citizen science project sending koala scats for DNA analysis in Melbourne.
The project will provide scientific evidence about the genetics and health of local populations in districts such as Yarranlea, Irongate, Southbrook, Linthorpe and Kincora.
“Yesterday would have been better - but the time to act is now,” Mr Silcock said.
“Recent dry years have accelerated the loss of viable koala habitat.
“Real progress to redress the situation will only be made if the council works in partnerships with Landcare groups, landholders and communities. There is strong community goodwill towards better protection for koalas.
“At the state level, we want the council to continue to advocate for the entire TRC region to be included in the SEQ Koala Conservation Strategy,” he said.
At this stage, the Strategy includes less than one per cent of the TRC area, on the eastern fringe of the region from Greenmount to Geham, but has provision for annual revision of koala habitat mapping.
Pittsworth Landcare has made numerous representations to governments over the past five years to include Darling Downs koalas in management plans and legislation.