Noosa koalas may be in danger from land clearing for fire breaks.
Noosa koalas may be in danger from land clearing for fire breaks.

Fire clearing ‘overkill’ may cost koalas

NOOSA'S struggling wild koalas already hit hard by recent fires could next find they are impacted by the clearing of more habitat for fire breaks.

That is a major concern of Noosa Council's senior environment officer Peter Milne, which should form part of a submission to the State Government on its draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy.

He told councillors that large bush breaks in the wake of recent fire threats could be counter-productive.

"A lot of the impacts from fire are from ember attack," Mr Milne said.

"Clearing a fire trail may not necessarily help protect an asset. I guess the reaction is it can be overkill.

"You do need an access for emergency services, but if there is over-clearing you're not really achieving a good result for either fire protection or for koalas," he said.

Mr Milne said there was obviously a conflict between life and property protection and also protecting koala habitat.

"Landholders can actually over-clear, that might be an immediate reaction," he said.

"We need to look closely at what is the policy guideline is behind that.

"In some areas it may not be the results that people are after."

Council staff have also raised concerns that under draft proposals the council will lose the power to insist on koala offsets on a small but significant number of properties that still retain koala habitat.

Mr Milne said in Noosa Shire 50 per cent of koala records are found in regrowth vegetation but outdated state ecosystem mapping might be see areas of this exempt from vegetation clearing provisions.

He said Noosa areas that are now high value regrowth or have reached "remnant status" may be still mapped as young regrowth where the clearing protections do not apply.

"This means that some vegetation in Noosa Shire, although locally known as koala habitat, is not afforded sufficient protection either at a state or local government level.

"Validating these areas requires a desktop review and ground-truthing of several thousand properties to ensure all koala habitat in Noosa Shire is captured," Mr Milne said.

Councillors have now agreed to commit to a mapping review as part of the map validation process, as required by the Queensland Government, within the next two years.

Deputy Mayor Frank Wilkie has some reservations about the new state protections.

"I can only express the hope that this strategy does result in its stated aim of providing greater protection for koalas and helps strengthen the local government's existing protections and compliments it and not weakens it," Cr Wilkie said.

Cr Joe Jurisevic said the most concerning parts of the SEQ draft report indicates 150,700 hectares has been identified as suitable for koala habitat restoration, but only 1000 hectares has been earmarked for rehabilitation.

"So there's a long, long way to go and the koalas are fighting an uphill battle from recent bush fires," he said.

"I'm hoping that we'll see far more than 1000 hectares dedicated and offsets and plantings and along those lines dedicated towards koala conservation in the future."

On a brighter note, Mr Milne said the Noosa Koala Corridor Pilot habitat restoration at Yurol and Ringtail Forest in Noosa was seen by the State Government as "a flagship project for the state because it has so many multiple stakeholders involved".

He said the state sees this as "a really good model that they'd like to pursue in other areas," Mr Milne said.



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