November 2010

Yesterday was a red letter day for the koala and I am writing with great enthusiasm because Senator Bob Brown (pictured left) was able to get support for a Senate Inquiry into the status, health and sustainability of Australia’s koala population.

He has referred the matter to the Senate Environment Communications and the Arts References Committee for inquiry on the first day of sitting of 2011 and a report will be due by 1 June 2011.

In undertaking the inquiry, the committee must consider:

- The iconic status of the koala and the history of its management;

- Estimates of koala populations and the adequacy of current counting methods;

- Knowledge of koala habitat;

- Threats to koala habitat such as logging, land clearing, poor management, attacks from feral and domestic animals, disease and roads, and urban development;

- The listing of the koala under the EPBC Act;

- The adequacy of the National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy;

- Appropriate future regulation for the protection of koala habitat;

- Interaction of state and federal laws and regulations;

- Any other related matters

At this stage, I am not sure who will Chair the Committee or who will be on that Committee to review these matters. I am sure there will be some sort of public notification.

This is a golden opportunity for all of you to air your grievances about so many koala related matters. I would really appreciate hearing from anyone who wants to present their information to the Senate Inquiry. We will have one shot and I am confident we must all work in unison to make sure that all matters are put on the table.

I am hoping we can produce information that will show that existing regulations for the protection of koala habitat are just not working, and that the recently written National Koala Conservation and Management Strategy is basically “business as usual”.

It seems to me we have to show the real threats to koalas. Not just the clearing of habitat, but the fundamental lack of commitment by our Governments to enforce existing laws and, worse still, allowing road builders, energy companies, coal companies, coal-seam gas companies, developers, and logging companies to get away with documents that refuse to meet scientific and regulatory standards.

We have been arguing koala numbers with Governments for years. Scientists in a recent meeting argued with AKF that you cannot establish a national estimate. This is not so. AKF has estimated koala numbers and potential remaining habitat. Government has never replied with substantial data, just with blanket rhetoric about why things should stay the same.

This Inquiry should give us, the people, a chance to say what is really going on without the fear of being sued, libelled or diminished in anyway.

I would encourage you all to write to Senator Brown and congratulate him and his team for this achievement. Write to: Senator Bob Brown, Leader of the Australian Greens, Parliament House, Canberra. ACT 2601.

Koala Campaigners from all around the world have worked hard and long for this and personally I feel a great weight has lifted. It does not mean that the threats will not go away, but I do believe in democracy, and Senator Brown has allowed us to have our say.

Please let us all work together on this great potential.

Regards, Deborah