Still waiting

 

Hello Koala Lovers,

 

2017 seems to have gone very fast, and like all Australians I am looking forward to having some time off in our summer so that we can come back refreshed for 2018.

In recent weeks, I received a letter from Minister Frydenberg, our federal Environment Minister, saying that by the end of this year, there would be a Draft Koala Recovery Plan document for us to comment on, and at the time of writing, no such document exists.

It is quite shocking to reflect that the Koala was listed in May 2012 under the EPBC Act (by the federal Government after a Senate Inquiry in 2011). At the time, the federal government said “we will write a Recovery Plan and it will be finished in 2014”.

This year we had legal advice which explained that the Minister can actually wait for 6 years before this document has to be written, giving him until May 2018. We also understand that there may be the opportunity for him to extend that recovery process until 2023.

Even if the document does appear, AKF is confident that it will still be useless and there is no other way forward than a Koala Protection Act. I can assure you that the AKF will see that through to fruition.

Because so many of our supporters are international people I do not want to bore you with Australian politics, because in many countries you have the same bedlam. That said, perhaps this is good bedlam. Bedlam that will make our leaders realise that they are not in charge and that we, the people have a voice.

What did happen through the recent election in Queensland is that many of the environment and conservation groups seem to have realised how the Koala can be a great flagship for conservation. Over the years, the AKF has had to fend off criticism that we only care about the 'cute', and now, thank goodness, other groups are realising what AKF has known for over 30 years: the Koala can save millions of animals in their forests – including insects, birds and reptiles. The Koala Protection Act will enable that to happen. Their efforts have helped keep the Koala front and centre of the political debate and this gave the AKF the opportunity to really focus on laws – new laws that will truly work. 

Queensland and New South Wales have both, since the Koala was listed in May 2012, enacted laws that allowed massive clearing of land, including Koala habitat. During a recent election many groups appeared to have faith that if a certain party was elected, that these laws would be repealed.

AKF has no such faith and over my tenure, I can say that not one political party has had the fortitude to protect Koala habitat, but I will be prepared to eat humble pie if  laws are enacted that actually work. I would also point out that even if “land clearing laws” did get stronger, the homes of Koalas in urban landscapes will never be protected by existing thinking. As Australia urbanises this is a key point and why a single species law is essential.

A Koala Protection Act is the only way forward to protect our beautiful Koalas, so their homes are not at the whim of our political leaders for “deals” done in back rooms – and there are many deals being done.  

AKF does no such deals. The Koala Protection Act must be enacted because it is the right thing to do; that the protection of our national icon is paramount to any sort of political manipulations that plague political parties in this weird and modern world.  Preferences – whatever happened to first past the post, so that we could truly elect people who share our values and represent our communities.

 

Before I go on vacation, I also feel that I have to mention a documentary called Cultivating Murder, which is the story of compliance officer Glen Turner being murdered by Mr. Ian Turnbull a landholder. The land in question was Koala habitat. Had a Koala Protection Act been in place, I would hope that the land clearing could have been stopped and that the fine imposed sufficient to stop the land holder continuing; not allowed to go on for months even after the murder. When I watched the documentary for the second time, I noted the Judge when sentencing the murderer aged 81 to a 35 year sentence. The Judge said “all Australian’s have lost by this murder”. What I have known for many years is that our political leaders are allowing and encouraging a divide and conquer approach to land clearing. A 'them and us' tactic which has worked for thousands of years by leaders that have caused such harm.

 

By the end of this year, the AKF scientists will have mapped the entire geographic range of the Koala, which is 1.5 million square kilometres, much of which is on private land. Had these maps been in play, the department in question would have been able to explain to Mr. Turnbull that the Koala habitat on his property must be protected for the good of both Australia and the global citizens who love them. Incentives for the protection of that land that would be unavailable for farm work could have been made (AKF has long believed that benefits should be given to landholders who protect biodiversity).

Decisions on biodiversity should be based on good science and Bob’s Map is “Based on Best Science”. It is named after our former Chairman “Bob” Gibson who explained to my team many years ago, “that if the AKF does not know where koala habitat is and better still how many Koalas are left, we should not be in business”. Bob’s map does both – identifies available habitat and better still gives a shocking estimate of how many Koalas there are: min approx. 47,860 - max approx. 85,695. You can compare AKF and Government numbers here. Who is right?

So, I will be back in 2018, fully energised in full steam ahead mode.  

We the people, who love the Koala must stand firm for their protection and I know I can count on you to help the AKF next year and beyond.

The Board, staff and I wish you all a very festive Christmas holiday and any other celebrations that occur around the world at this special time of the year.

 

With great admiration and thanks.

Deborah