North Coast koalas in serious danger: environmentalist
ENVIRONMENTALIST Dailan Pugh believes laws protecting koalas are so inadequate that the North Coast population is in serious danger.
The koala is listed as a threatened species under state and federal law, yet the Forestry Corporation of NSW is issued a "licence to kill" under the National Parks and Wildlife Act.
There are numerous requirements for inspecting state forests prior to logging operations in areas that are recognised as "preferred forest types" for koalas.
But Mr Pugh, who was awarded an Order of Australia in 2003 for his work in conservation, said these are either not done, or done in a very cursory manner.
"We are engaged in a dispute at the moment over the meaning of 'a thorough search'," he said. "We are finding no evidence of searching (in logging compartments at Royal Camp State Forest), whereas Forestry are saying they don't need to move leaf litter to look for scats."
Wildlife expert David Milledge said the level of koala activity at Royal Camp was "amongst the highest I have recorded in my experience of over 20 years".
Yet, despite complaints made by North East Forest Alliance and an EPA investigation finding Forestry NSW had been in breach of licence conditions, the maximum fines issued are just $300.
"The EPA has three options: to issue a warning letter, a penalty notice (maximum $300 fine) or to initiate court action," Mr Pugh said.
"But there have only been two cases since 1998 that have been about enforcement of licence requirement relating to threatened species.
"And they seem to have a quota for the number of penalty notices issued. It doesn't matter how many times they are found to have breached that condition, there is only one fine."
Mr Pugh said koala populations on public land are dwindling.
"The requirements for cutting trees on private land are actually better. You have to leave 15 feed trees per hectare and they have to be at least 30cm diameter, but there is no requirement to do any surveys for koalas prior to logging."