Media Releases - 21 May 2024

South East Queensland koala regulations won’t solve Queensland’s deforestation crisis

Rampant deforestation across South East Queensland threatens koala populations. Image: Brian Coulter

The Miles government released its findings and decisions on the implementation review of the 2020 South East Queensland Koala habitat regulations yesterday.

The review found that under the regulations, there is still unchecked clearing of koala habitat through “exemption stacking” and ineffective monitoring. As a result, the government has endorsed amendments to the regulations that would work to prevent exemption stacking and update guidelines for landholders.

The government’s decision to take steps to reduce exemption stacking is welcome, says the Wilderness Society, but without stamping out rampant deforestation across the state, koala populations will only continue to decline.

Queensland leads the nation in deforestation. Bulldozing of koala habitat takes place across the state due to regulatory loopholes that continue to allow for this unchecked destruction. Analysis of the Statewide Landcover and Tree Study (SLATS) between 2015-2020 by the Wilderness Society showed that 920,969 hectares of likely koala habitat in Queensland was impacted by land clearing activities.

Koala regulations and mapping must extend beyond South East Queensland as the koala’s habitat distribution extends as far as North Queensland. Furthermore, data on Queensland’s rates of deforestation, the Statewide Landcover and Trees Study, should be released regularly, and in a timely manner to better facilitate monitoring and enforcement of habitat destruction.

Meanwhile, processes to reform the nation’s environment law, the EPBC Act have broken potential improvements into stages, with timelines blowing out. But with Australia being a global deforestation hotspot, and the koala joining the national threatened species list in 2022, improved regulations and better enforcement are critical at both state and federal levels.

Hannah Schuch, Queensland Campaigns Manager for the Wilderness Society, said: “It’s good to see the Miles government outlining its approach for protecting koalas in the South East and we urge them to implement these decisions as soon as possible. But ,put simply, these amendments won’t stop the bulldozers that are destroying koala forest habitat every single day.

“Queensland is a deforestation hotspot. Measures to protect koalas in the South East of the state should be applied and mapped as far as their distribution extends, otherwise this is only a small piece of the puzzle that is fixing Queensland’s deforestation and extinction crisis.

“Over the past 5 years of state government reporting, more than 2 million hectares of Queensland’s forest and bushland were bulldozed, much of which is home for koalas. This scale of destruction must be matched with appropriate action if there is any hope in protecting this iconic species from extinction.

“It’s time for the Miles government to strengthen Queensland’s laws to protect Queensland’s forests and bushlands and invest in programs like the Land Restoration Fund that work for people and nature, while beef retailers must also take steps to remove deforestation from their supply chains.”

For interviews with Hannah Schuch, Queensland Campaigns Manager, please contact Rhiannon Cunningham, media adviser for the Wilderness Society on [email protected] or 0419 992 760.