Toomorrow is World Environment Day , and the potential new Deputy Prime Minister has a dilemma about Koalas . His colleague and shadow environment Minister Greg Hunt wants to hand protection powers for koalas under the EPBC ACT 1999 back to the states.
MEDIA RELEASE- 5TH JUNE
WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY 2013
‘JUST HOW MUCH CAN A KOALA BEAR, WHEN ‘HUNT’ IS ON THE HUNT?’
To celebrate World Environment Day, The Wide Bay Burnett Environment Council Inc will turn its attention to the Koala (Pharscolarctos cinereus) the cute, cuddly, furry emblem of the ‘Aussie bush’, in particular their presence here in our very own back yard in the Fraser Coast.
The Fraser Coast contains areas of significant koala habitat but the population status of this species is under threat. Approximately 30 sick and deceased animals were discovered in the Tinana area alone in a 6 week period late last year.
Just in the last 2 weeks, the Sunshine Coast Koala Wildlife Rescue Service attended 12 call outs to conduct rescues of sick and injured koalas between Tiaro and Tinana further highlighting the threat this species faces in urban and rural areas from injuries and stress related illnesses resulting from increased habitat loss, domestic pets and traffic.
However there may be some good news for Fraser Coast koalas as Federal Member for Wide Bay and Leader of the Nationals, Warren Truss, has koalas in his very own backyard right here in Maryborough and along with this family, has been working closely with local koala conservationists and wildlife careers.
Koalas populations in South East Queensland were recently listed under the Federal Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC) as a Matter of National Environmental Significance (MNES) meaning that impacts to koalas must now be assessed by the Federal Government if an application for development/mining operation proposes to remove and/or impact upon Koala habitat.
But they will only remain protected in SEQ under the EPBC Act if it remains in place and with the Federal Election looming, that is the question weighing heavily on the minds of conservationist across the country. Recent announcements in the media by Shadow Environment Minister Greg Hunt1 and Shadow Resources Minister Ian McFarlane2 strongly indicate that the Coalition plans to de-structure the Act but according to the Leader of the Nationals, this is not the case.
WBBEC Coordinator Miss Emma-Kate Currie and Greater Mary Association President Dr Tanzi Smith met recently with Mr Truss to discuss the EPBC Act.
“During our meeting with the Leader of the Nationals, he made a commitment to us that the Coalition has no intention of altering the conditions of the EPBC Act and assured us that if they are to come into government in September that the Act will remain in place” said Miss Currie.
However, the recent announcements made the Shadow Ministers clearly indicate that there is confusion in the ranks of the Coalition. On one hand, the Leader of the Nationals makes a commitment that the Act will not change and the very next week other members of his party publically contradict his commitment by announcing that they would immediately work towards hand over assessment powers to the States, if elected to Government.
The Queensland Government recently amended the Vegetation Management Act 1999 (VMA) allowing significant areas of previously protected vegetation, containing Koala habitat, to now be cleared. In addition to this there are planned legislative changes to the Protected Plants Legislation under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 that will be before parliament under an Amendment Bill in August that will allow further significant habitat areas to become fragmented as well as the fact that National Parks have just been opened up to grazing and ecologically damaging recreational activities.
It is in light of these recent catastrophic changes to Environment Protection Legislation, that there is little trust amongst the conservation sector that the state would be capable of independently assessing impacts to MNES under the EPBC Act if the Coalition was to hand power over to them.
The EPBC Act has particular significance to Mr Truss who understands acutely the necessity to have an overarching legislation that assesses project impacts independently from the State’s interests having fought tirelessly against the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam. After the Traveston Dam debacle came to an end, Mr Truss stated in a Media Release on his website “Were it not for the requirements of the Australian Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999, there would have been no independent assessment of all of the Queensland Government’s actions on the Traveston Crossing Dam at all.”3
WBBEC Coordinator Emma-Kate Currie caught up with the Leader of the Nationals campaign crew at the Fraser Coast Show and was shown a picture of a local Koala residing in gum trees in Warren’s backyard.
“It’s wonderful to know that Mr Truss has koalas in his own backyard and is working closely with local koala protection advocates to ensure our local populations are protected. In light of this, we would urge Mr Truss to hold true to the commitment he made to us and to remember the fact that the EPBC Act was the ultimate deciding factor in the Traveston Dam decision”
Mr Truss has a responsibility to protect the interests of wildlife and nature, not only in his own back yard but right across the country. If the Coalition is elected to Government in September, Mr Truss will likely become our next Deputy-Prime Minister and with this responsibility comes a mandate to hold true to all commitments made.
“We are now calling on Mr Truss to ensure that if elected to Government in September, that he will guarantee that the EPBC Act remains in place, retains its legislative teeth and that assessment powers are not placed in the hands of State Governments who cannot be trusted to independently assess projects as we clearly saw in the case of the Traveston Dam”, said Miss Currie.
For more information contact Emma-Kate Currie: 0423 932 431