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Koala Conservation

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Koala populations

Koala being released

In May 2015, the koala, which was previously only listed as vulnerable throughout the South East Queensland Bioregion was listed as ‘vulnerable’ across the state under the Queensland Nature Conservation Act 1992.

The South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017 (ShapingSEQ) lists Koala Conservation as a specific goal which aims to promote ecological and social sustainability and create a network of interconnected koala habitat to sustain South East Queensland's (SEQ) koala population. ShapingSEQ puts strategies and measurements in place to improve koala conservation and has identified SEQ’s preferred future as no net loss in koala habitat. The regional plan also identifies the need for a new effective SEQ koala conservation strategy and as such will deliver an integrated strategy, supported by practical actions which may include improved habitat mapping, to ensure the long-term sustainability of SEQ’s koala habitat and population.

This aim is also supported by the Planning Act 2016 and Planning Regulation 2017 which regulates new development in koala habitat areas including koala broad hectare areas and koala assessable development areas (KADA). ShapingSEQ and the Planning Act 2016 commenced in early to mid 2017.

Koalas on the Gold Coast

Koala populations continue to survive in a small number of locations east of the Pacific Motorway (M1), while the majority of Gold Coast koalas occupy habitat west of the motorway.

Koalas have been sighted in a number of City of Gold Coast conservation areas including Pimpama River, Wongawallan (Wilkes Scrub), Clagiraba (Lower Beechmont - Mount Nathan), Coombabah, Elanora, Numinbah Valley, Tugun Hill and Upper Mudgeeraba. These areas were purchased by the City under the Open Space Preservation Levy Acquisition program, which is funded by ratepayers.

Koalas also occur in residential areas where they are particularly at risk from disease, domestic dogs and traffic. The below table is a list of Gold Coast suburbs where koalas have been sighted.

Arundel Nerang
Ashmore Ormeau
Bonogin Oxenford
Burleigh Heads Pacific Pines
Coombabah Palm Beach
Coomera Paradise Point
Currumbin Parkwood
Currumbin Valley Pimpama
Currumbin Waters Pine Ridge
Elanora Reedy Creek
Gaven Runaway Bay
Gilston Southport
Guanaba Tallai
Helensvale Tallebudgera
Highland Park Tallebudgera Valley
Hollywell Upper Coomera
Hope Island Willowvale
Labrador Wongawallan
Molendinar Worongary
Mudgeeraba  

Koalas in South East Queensland

The decision to list the koala as vulnerable across the Queensland state in 2015 was a direct response to continued threats including climate change, habitat reduction, disease, motor vehicle strike and attacks by dogs and an ongoing decline in koala numbers.

The Department of Environment and Heritage Protection (EHP), formerly known as DERM, estimated a 26 per cent decline in the koala population in the Koala Coast area of Redland City, Logan City and Brisbane City between 1996-99 and 2005-06.

Monitoring by EHP in 2008 estimated that the Koala Coast population had declined by a further 51 per cent over just three years. In less than 10 years, this koala population was estimated to have declined by an alarming 64 per cent and was predicted to plummet still further during 2010. Similar assessments for Moreton Bay Regional Council undertaken by GHD in 2007-08 indicated a 46 per cent decline in urban koala populations since 1996-99 EHP surveys.

In 2015, EHP commissioned a South East Queensland Koala Population Modelling Study to analyse survey data from between 1996 and 2015 from the South East Queensland (SEQ) Koala Monitoring Program and to receive an independent assessment of the conservation status of the koala in the seven Local Government Areas (LGAs) that make up the ‘Koala Coast’ – Moreton Bay Regional Council, Noosa Shire Council, Ipswich City Council, Brisbane City Council, Redland City Council, Logan City Council and City of Gold Coast.

The study found strong evidence for a rapid decline in population densities between 1996 and 2014 in the Koala Coast and Pine Rivers populations, with an estimated 80.3% (95% credible interval: 70.8% to 86.2%) decline in the Koala Coast sites and an estimated 54.3% (95% credible interval: 20.1% to 74.4%) decline in the Pine Rivers sites.

A Nature Conservation (Koala) Conservation Plan 2006 and Management Program 2006-2016 was prepared by the EHP and enacted in October 2006 with the aim of increasing the level of protection for koalas throughout their geographic range in Queensland and to halt declines in koala numbers in the south east.

In May 2010, the Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability and the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning released the following Koala State planning instruments aimed to help protect koala habitat and manage conflicts in areas of urban development.

  • State Planning Policy 2/10: Koala Conservation in South East Queensland
  • South East Queensland Koala State Planning Regulatory Provisions

In 2016-2017 the State Government introduced both the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017 (Shaping SEQ) and the Planning Act 2016 and Planning Regulation 2017 which has replaced the above planning instruments. Through ShapingSEQ the Queensland Government has identified the following actions to improve koala conservation:

  • identify and protect areas to support viable koala populations that are distributed widely across SEQ in rural, rural residential and urban landscapes.
  • focus coordinated planning, with management and investment programs, to maintain and enhance the extent and quality of koala habitat and the viability and abundance of koalas across the region.
  • the need for a new effective SEQ koala conservation strategy.
  • monitor the impacts of development on SEQ’s koala habitat.

 

While the Planning Act 2016 still performs the regulation of new development in koala habitat areas, the ShapingSEQ has identified the need for a new SEQ koala conservation strategy for the State and has formed an expert koala panel. The City of Gold Coast was invited to participate as a stakeholder and the State has identified that a final report will be released before the end of the year. The report is expected to contain an integrated strategy, supported by practical actions which may include improved habitat mapping, to ensure the long-term sustainability of SEQ’s koala habitat and population.

Koalas in Australia

Koalas are widely distributed across eastern Australia, from far north-eastern Queensland to the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia, extending inland to the Brigalow Belt and Mulga Lands of central Queensland and the tablelands and western slopes and plains of New South Wales. South-eastern Queensland supports some of the highest numbers of koalas within their range on the mainland, making the area of national importance for koala conservation.

In areas where adequate habitat remains to support a stable breeding population, koalas establish and occupy individual 'home ranges'. These home ranges adjoin or overlap with those of other members of the population and incorporate home range trees that are visited more frequently than others. The home range areas vary in size due to habitat quality and demographic or social factors with males tending to establish larger home ranges than females.

Habitat quality can be measured by factors such as the abundance and size of preferred food and shelter tree species, soil nutrient availability, and the extent of habitat fragmentation or other disturbance. Research suggests that koalas are likely to remain loyal to their home range area throughout their lives unless there is major disturbance to the habitat or disruption to social structures.

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