Greens pamphlet to save our Koalas. Photo: Addie Morton.

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BY ADDIE MORTON

An Australian icon is in danger and the only political party to recognise this are the New South Wales Greens.

Wild koalas are disappearing at an alarming rate due to the impacts of logging, land clearing, and urban development. As a result the area has seen koala numbers decline by an estimated 25 per cent over the past 15-20 years.

Australian Greens and local activists gathered in Ultimo on Thursday April 12 to discuss the current state of wild koalas in New South Wales.

“Seeing the government’s logging agenda first hand is shocking,” Dawn Walker, Greens member of the NSW Legislative Council said.

“Away from public gaze, the systematic deconstruction of our precious forests is taking place, Walker said. “To anyone’s eyes it’s horrific.”

Walker, the Greens NSW spokesperson for koalas, explained that the NSW Government has a pro-logging agenda, which means vast areas of forests are unnecessarily logged for short-term profit, “destroying vital forest ecosystems and tearing up fragile soils in the process.”

“It’s time to recognise that the greatest value of our public native forests don’t come from logging them but preserving them,” Walker said.

The Greens’ goal is to convert large areas of state forests into new national parks so they are protected for all time. There are already strong campaigns to create a Great Koala National Park to protect an area that contains 20 per cent of NSW wild koalas from destructive logging.

The group hopes to establish the park near Coffs Harbour helping to ensure the survival of one of NSW’s most important koala populations. A new national park would mean new jobs for rangers, guides, and a variety of other tourism and hospitality positions, Walker says.

Ricardo Lonzo, founder of Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown, has seen firsthand how development can lead to the destruction of wildlife habitats.

“I’m not against development, I just want development to be done properly and to not just benefit the developers and government,” he said.

Dr. Mehreen Faruqi, environmental specialist and member of the NSW Legislative Council, says the decline of the iconic koala can be linked to a broader attack on the environment.

“The NSW Government’s land clearing laws could wipe out literally 99 per cent of koala habitat,” she said. “I’ve started calling this ecocide. I don’t take that term lightly, but it is literally and knowing destroying the environment.”

In her 26 years in Australia she says this is the most “anti-environment government” she has seen to date.

“I think one of the most backwards steps that this Liberal National Government has taken is tearing up of our native vegetation laws and bringing up these new land-clearing laws,” Dr Faruqi said. “Pretty much under these laws, anything is up for clearing. Most of it can be done without any oversight.”

WWF-Australia, a group that works for the conservation of environment and wildlife with a mission to stop the degradation of natural environment, found that 2.2 million hectares of koala habitat could be cleared under these laws.

“At times clearly marked ecologically endangered communities have been cut to the ground and tossed in a pile, yet the NSW Government turns a blind eye,” Walker said.

With a state and federal election on the horizon, many at the meeting said there is a great opportunity at stake.

“I think that’s the time politicians are really listening,” Dr. Faruqi said. “It’s important that whoever we give our very precious and valuable votes to is dedicated to the environment and we hold them accountable.”