April 2009

It is nearly 7 pm. I am waiting to ring in to a local radio station in Northern New South Wales. The presenter's name is Pussycat.  This is a community radio station and she wants to understand why it is so difficult to get the koala protected by the Federal Government.   

I am looking forward to the interview because I suspect a lot of the listeners are people that have fought hard and long battles to protect forests in that area of Australia. Over the years I have met and loved so many tree huggers (or ferals) as they are called in Australia. Over time I think we will see that those who have risked their lives and often their reputations to protect bushland will be seen as heroes, not dissidents.   Without them some of the most beautiful wilderness areas of the world would have been lost.

Last week I went traveling up the mid coast of New South Wales.  Firstly I went into Port Stephens and stayed at a resort that has koalas.  I was disappointed on the first morning not to site a wild koala but the second morning I went out and there on my car was a whole lot of koala pooh.  I looked up and there you go.  Fabulous.  There is nothing more joyous than seeing a koala in the wild.

In Port Stephens I met with carers, planners and politicians and talked about the National Koala Strategy and encouraged them, when the Federal Government puts the document on public exhibition, to submit and identify ways they can protect the koala.    I often wonder why the Federal Government fellows are not making these trips because they should be.  It gives you such a sense of reality.  Documents and words are just that.  

Meeting people who have cared for so many koalas and worse still watched them die is a sobering experience.   In one home I met an old koala called Tiger – he is very old – suffering from Chlamydia and has obviously enjoyed the loving care of his carer who has returned him to health.   The problem now is – should he be returned to the wild where most likely his frailty will cause him to die, or should he be kept in captivity until his death?    Under New South Wales law he should be euthanized. In my opinion,  he should be allowed to live his life out.  I do not see much value in releasing him to a perilous fate.  They are complex issues and being on the road allows me to think them through so that I can take some reality into the rooms of the bureaucrats.

Then I travelled on to Greater Taree – a most magnificent part of the world and similar meetings. I met with planners and others in Councils, many who I was familiar with. I realised then that having long relationships like this is the way to get koalas protected.  It is so easy to focus on what hasn’t been achieved, but this trip, as I drove up highways with miles and miles of koala fences, I realised that we, AKF and all those in Australia fighting to protect the koala have achieved a lot.  Again, we couldn’t do it without your help. 

Our independence is everything and I thank you. 

I am told that my diary is started to be read and this is very exciting to me.    Over the last twenty years I have done some amazing things and seen some of the most beautiful places in the world.   Last week’s trip inspired me to do more and I realise that after all this time, my knowledge is starting to come to fruition that will hopefully bring new policies and change for the koala. 

Until next time, I must go ring Pussycat.  I will let you know how it goes.