News - 01 August 2019

Bulldozing koala habitat needs to stop

By Gemma Plesman, Queensland Campaign Manager

Deforestation and land clearing is currently the greatest threat to native species in Queensland, and is largely responsible for the sharp decline in koala populations. When habitat is bulldozed, many koalas die instantly—while others are left with nowhere to go. Wildlife carers are struggling to cope with mounting numbers of sick and injured animals, saying the destruction of bushland is to blame.

Photo: The Wilderness Society's 'Meet Your MP' workshop in Brisbane, July 2019

In 2018, the Queensland Government re-introduced laws to curb deforestation and habitat destruction. While this was a great first step, these laws do not go far enough to protect endangered koalas. In South East Queensland, urban development projects can squeeze through loopholes in the laws, and across the state, large exemptions for certain vegetation types make it easy to bulldoze habitat with no oversight. 

As a result, koala populations are down by almost 50% in Queensland. In South East Queensland it's even worse—down 80%. It’s unbelievable to see that koala habitat is still being bulldozed at huge scales around the state. If the government is serious about protecting koalas, then it must stop the bulldozing of koala habitat. 

In July 2016, the Queensland Government commissioned a Koala Expert Panel to provide recommendations on priority actions to address the relentless decline in koalas in South East Queensland. This Panel released its final report in September 2017, which singled out habitat destruction as "the threat having the greatest impact on koalas”. But two years on, the bulldozing has continued unabated.

Photo: Gold Coast, Queensland | Wildcare Australia Inc.

It was people power that convinced the Queensland Government to look into the issue at all. This came after thousands of wildlife carers, Movement For Life volunteers and concerned residents came together to demand stronger protections for forest and bushland in their local communities. They made phone calls, held events, spoke to their neighbours and blew the lid off this issue. 

We also held a 'Meet your Member of Parliament' workshop in July to provide community members and wildlife carers with the tools they need to continue pushing Queensland Parliament—and parties of all stripes—to address this issue with greater urgency. This is the responsibility of our entire parliament, no matter which party they represent. Everyone left the workshop with a meeting request submitted to their elected representative and plans to have a powerful conversation. 

When we work together and sing in chorus about what needs to be done, we are powerful. 

Gemma Plesman

Gemma Plesman is the Wilderness Society's Queensland Campaign Manager. For the last two years she has worked on the campaign to end deforestation in Queensland and Australia. She is currently a member of the Koala Advisory Council—a body established by the Queensland Government. 

Gemma completed a Bachelor of Education with Honours in Education for Sustainability and is a graduate of the Change Agency’s Community Organising Fellowship. Before coming to the Wilderness Society, Gemma worked for the Australian Marine Conservation Society where she was successful in stopping port proposals in the Fitzroy Delta, Mackay, the Whitsundays and Cairns as well as securing State and Federal support for a ban on dumping dredge spoil in the Great Barrier Reef.