Australia’s beloved koalas will continue to face the risk of extinction if the clearing of critical habitat is not stopped, Australian Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young says.
The warning follows outrage over a federal government funding announcement on Monday.
Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced an $18 million koala package, which includes $2m for a national audit of koala populations.
The surveys will include scat monitoring, drone and acoustic surveys, as well as detector dogs and citizen science activities.
But Greens environment spokeswoman Senator Hanson-Young said a koala census would not save Australia’s national treasure from extinction.
“Koalas have been counted in critical habitat areas only for the government to ignore that data and approve mining and development projects that imperil the koalas calling that land home,” Senator Hanson-Young said.
“The Greens will move in the parliament for a moratorium on habitat clearing to save the koala from extinction.”
The party will seek to introduce the moratorium when parliament resumes next week.
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A further $14m in federal funding will help restore koala habitat in bushfire and non-bushfire affected areas as well as provide targeted funding for areas in northern NSW and southern Queensland.
Koala health and veterinary support will receive $2 million to help tackle chlamydia, diseases and injuries from cars.
Labor environment spokeswoman Terri Butler has also raised concerns about the government’s support for koalas.
“Under the Coalition, 170 out of 171 threatened species recovery plans are overdue,” she said.
“The threatened species recovery plan for the koala, originally due in 2015, is one of them.”
Environment Minister Sussan Ley said annual reporting on koala populations and conservation strategies would become a mandatory agenda item at the meeting of environment ministers.
“For all our focus on koalas, scientists are telling us that there is a serious lack of data about where populations actually are, how they are faring and the best ways to help them recover after the devastating bushfires,” Ms Ley said.
Threatened species commissioner Dr Sally Box said the $18m in funding would support the conservation community to respond to the devastating 2019-20 bushfire season.