17th April 2012

Last night I spoke in a small community hall in the bush and the subject was “Do Koala Offsets Work?". A koala offset policy is basically this: a developer buys or owns a piece of land that is prime koala habitat and instead of saying OK, this is koala habitat, how can I develop this sensibly and with sensitivity, they are allowed to knock that habitat down and then buy another piece of land elsewhere. In the Senate hearings, a Director General actually said that they allow this and that pineapple farms are bought so they can recreate koala habitat that is lost. As I watched the faces of the people in the room who know this as well as I do, I found myself saying “well, it is just ridiculous” - and it is, isn’t it?

What in the heck do these planners and bureaucrats think will happen to the koalas and all the other creatures that live in these forests? Do they think they will move down the road and wait until the new habitat has grown? Worse still, do they care or are they so urbanised that they don’t even consider these thoughts? Sadly, I think it is the latter.

At least the media have realised how threatened our koala is and have recognised the seriousness of the situation. I had the pleasure of being on three TV programmes within the last 24 hours. The first one showed a report from a previous Government which identified that koalas were “functionally extinct”, which means incapable of surviving long term. It also stated that a departmental person tried to suppress this fact.  

Number two addressed how beautiful habitat was destroyed by at least four different development companies because Government maps identified the habitat as “not suitable or suitable for rehabilitation.” Our maps, which we believe to be accurate,  identified the area as either primary or secondary habitat. We know that koalas are there and I suspect their  fate is clearly death by  dogs, cars or starvation.   

This morning I was also on a national TV show and the presenter seemed shocked that the situation is so bad. After 23 years of saying the same thing over and over again and with the Minister announcing a decision about whether the koalas will be protected on 30th April, it made me realise that our beloved koala has many powerful enemies.

One of the developers interviewed last night implied that I was naïve and that progress has to occur.  I think it is important  to recognise that the AKF was the first scientific  organisation ever to work with a developer to create Koala Beach. Five hundred houses have been nestled in amongst the trees, the koalas and 25 other endangered species. I think our Mr. Developer from last night might be protesting too much and I would encourage him and others to decide to actually get on the programme, get into the 21st century and realise that eventually they will run out of everything unless they take a new and innovative approach.

Koala Campaigners – I know Urban has been missing, but I can assure you he is thinking and planning and will return soon. In the meantime, I do think that a last minute letter writing campaign is worth it. Everyone, tell Minister Burke that he has to list and email him at [email protected]. If you are unsure of what to say please send an email to [email protected] for help and we can provide you with a letter in English, German or French.   

As I have said before, if Minister Burke spent more time on searching for solutions instead of paying people to sit in a room and figure out how not to protect koalas the world would be a better place.  

Our freedom of speech is rare. We have that amazing opportunity because of you, and your donations. In recent days, the campaign against the koala has ramped up and those wanting to diminish us because of our strong stance are suggesting that we have no science to prove our position. We do – our mapping began in 1989 and until our Government or any other industry has anything like our Koala Habitat Atlas, we will continue to defend our position with good science and a great deal of courage.  

Thank you, as always.

Deborah Tabart.