Port Macquarie Koala Hospital staff comment on state government's Koala Strategy

Saving an icon: Every koala saved is good news for the population.
Saving an icon: Every koala saved is good news for the population.

The assistant clinical director at Port Macquarie Koala Hospital says every saved koala makes a big difference on the population scale.

Scott Castle welcomed the state government's Koala Strategy announcement that includes a $44.7 million commitment over three years.

The strategy covers koala habitat conservation, conservation through community action, safety and health of koala populations and building education.

Mr Castle said the investment into the Koala Strategy was ‘fantastic that something is planned’.

"The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital will do what we can to achieve a positive outcome," he said.

"We just want the right outcomes."

The funding includes the construction of a $3 million Port Stephens Koala Hospital, which Mr Castle supports.

"Better facilities will mean better management of these isolated koala populations,” he said.

"This new facility is really their own set up but we will assist them where we can.

"Every koala saved makes a big different on the population scale. As does every loss."

Mr Castle said the Port Macquarie facility has a close working relationship with rescuers and carers in the Port Stephens area.

He said it was good to see money going toward preservation but noted that it is spread thinly.

"There are still a lot of areas where assistance is needed.

“The issues are vast and include land clearing, loss of habitat.

“The problems with koala (populations) filter from this loss of habitat.

"At the moment, funding is spread thinly around different regions.

At the moment, funding is spread around different regions.

Scott Castle

"It would be handy to have more funding in research. We currently fund a lot of research through, and work with, many unis.

"Obviously, koala preservation is very important; koalas are internationally recognised and an icon."

Mr Castle said the Koala Hospital hosts about 100,000 visitors - many international - to the Port Macquarie facility with an estimated value of some $60 million in our region alone.

"Many visitors to the region come here specifically because of the koala hospital," he added.

The Shadow Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe described the koala strategy as 'nothing more than a flimsy cover for the destruction of koala habitat that has happened under this government'.

“Whether koala habitat has been sold off to developers or been allowed to be cleared indiscriminately, the message is simple, you cannot pretend to care about koalas if you allow the destruction of the trees and land they need to survive," she said.

The North East Forest Alliance says the Koala Strategy has failed koalas.

Koala populations on the North Coast have collapsed by 50 per cent in the past 20 years and this strategy will do little to redress that decline, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh. 

"If the objective is to stabilise and then increase koala numbers over the longer-term the highest priority has to be to identify and protect the remaining core habitat for koalas on publicly owned state forests from further degradation," he said.

The Koala Strategy will build on the work implemented through the Saving our Species Iconic Koala Project through aligning efforts across all government agencies much more broadly. 

Other key points of the strategy include: 

  • setting aside more than 20,000 hectares of state forest on the Central Coast, Southern Highlands, North Coast, Hawkesbury and Hunter with koala habitat as new koala reserves; 
  • transferring over 4000 hectares of native forest on the Mid North Coast with koala habitat to the national parks estate
  • $20 million from the NSW Environmental Trust to purchase land with prime koala habitat that can be permanently reserved as national parks
  • fixing priority road-kill hotspots across NSW
  • creating a network of koala and wildlife hospitals
  • delivering a single wildlife rescue call number