Media Releases - 14 November 2018

NSW’s 20 deforestation hotspots exposed; 17 with koala habitat

Seventeen of the state’s 20 deforestation hotspots contain koala habitat at risk of land clearing under new state environmental laws, a report by the NSW Nature Conservation Council, WWF-Australia, The Wilderness Society and National Parks Association of NSW has found.

Deforestation is worst in the state’s central west and northwest, with pockets of excessive land clearing on the north coast, in the Hunter Valley and in the state’s southwest.

Overlaying the hotspots with Federal Environment Department maps of koala habitat where koalas are known or likely to occur revealed that 17 of the 20 deforestation hotspots contained substantial areas of koala habitat adding up to almost 7 million hectares.

“Our research shows deforestation is worst in areas with some of the most vulnerable koala populations left in NSW,” said Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski. 

“High rates of deforestation in areas with koala habitat is a major risk for this iconic species, especially west of the Great Dividing Range where the deadly effects of climate change on koala populations is most acute.

“Without a dramatic change, koalas and other species that rely on forests and woodlands for their survival will continue their catastrophic decline.”

The Wilderness Society National Director Lyndon Schneiders said:  "The koala is facing an extinction epidemic in NSW, with some estimates saying this iconic animal could be extinct in the state by 2050.

“A third of the koala population has been wiped out in NSW in just 20 years, while the North Coast koala population has been slashed in half."

WWF-Australia conservation scientist Dr Martin Taylor said: “Most people in NSW don’t realise that it is easy and legal to destroy koala habitats. In just one of these deforestation hotspots, more than 5000 hectares of koala habitat were bulldozed in 12 just months.

“Laws must be changed to stop the industrial-scale deforestation that is taking place throughout NSW. If we do this, we could prevent the extinction of koalas in NSW by as early as 2050.”

What the NSW Government must do

To address the koala population crisis, we are calling on the NSW Government to:

  • Ban clearing of koala habitat on all land tenures
  • Create wildlife corridors to let koalas move between remnant of habitat
  • Finalise and release koala habitat mapping at state, regional and local scales.


Towards Zero Deforestation: A plan to end deforestation and excessive land clearing  in NSW

Top 20 deforestation hotspots


Fig. 4. Top 20 clearing hotspots in NSW, 2009 to 2014. Clearing hotspots (orange) detected using Sentinel-2 satellite images and NSW SLATS data. Forest and woodland (green) based on National Carbon Accounting System 2009.

Analysis of Sentinel-2 satellite imagery and NSW SLATS data shows the top 20 deforestation hotspots are in the state’s central west and northwest, with outliers on the north coast, Hunter Valley and southwest. Overlaying Australian Department of Environment and Energy Species of National Environmental Significance data shows 17 of the 20 hotspots contain almost 7 million hectares of koala habitat. High rates of deforestation in areas that include koala habitat poses a significant risk for the species, especially west of the Great Dividing Range where the negative impacts of climate change on koala populations is most acute.


1. Balranald (K) 2. Euabalong (K) 3. Cumbine 4. Condobolin (K) 5. Warren (K)   6. Dubbo (K) 7. Dunedoo (K) 8. Coolabah 9. Weilmoringle (K) 10.Lightning Ridge (K) 11. Coonamble (K) 12. Collarenebri (K) 13. Narrabri (K) 14. Moree (K) 15. Boomi    16. Merriwa (K) 17. Cessnock (K) 18. Barraba (K) 19. Warialda (K) 20. Lismore (K) 

K = Koala habitat.


Ecologist Phil Spark: “I’m deeply concerned these new laws are going to push native plants and animals to extinction in many places. These new laws ignore science and in doing so miss a vital opportunity to protect vegetation that will give our wildlife the protection it needs and the future it deserves.” - Phil Spark, ecologist.

Farmer Glenn Morris: “We seem to forget about all the services nature provides –  we’re taking it all for granted as we clear more and more trees for agriculture. There is nothing we need more than the rainfall-producing, cooling effects of healthy vegetated landscapes. I encourage everyone to realise we’re in this journey to restore a healthy planet together.”  - Glenn David Morris, NSW farmer and climate action advocate.

Vickii Lett, NSW WIRES wildlife rescuer: “I have released animals into good habitat and returned months later and it was completely flattened, the animals killed or lost. It is soul-destroying. We as a community are at a turning point. The decisions we make today will affect not only our native species but our own wellbeing.” - Vickii Lett, NSW WIRES wildlife rescuer and carer since 1988.

Dr John Van der Kallen MD: “Forests are essential for human health. They provide us with clean air and water, habitat for species that pollinate our food, protection from climate change, and bioactive compounds for development of medicines. As doctors we support protection of forests and native vegetation because our health depends on healthy ecosystems.” - Dr John Van der Kallen, Doctors for the Environment Australia, NSW Chair.

Virginia Young, Australian Rainforest Conservation Society

“The biodiversity crisis and climate crisis are equally serious and must be solved together. Safe, long-lived carbon storage in land and forests depends on ecosystem resilience. Biodiversity confers resilience. Climate action in land and forests is only effective if it ensures ecosystem integrity and protects biodiversity.” - Virginia Young, Director International Forests and Climate Program, Australian Rainforest Conservation Society.