Legal expert weighs in.
Legal expert weighs in.

Test case call to help save koalas

GYMPIE’S rapidly declining wild koala population could be saved under legislation enacted in the early 1990s, says QUT senior law lecturer Alastair MacAdam.

Mr MacAdam spoke to The Gympie Times yesterday about his call for a test case to be brought under section 88 of the Nature Conservation Act 1992 to prevent developers from destroying koala corridors and the habitats of other animals by clear-felling broad acre land for new housing estates.

He said the meaning of the word “take” in section 88(2) of the Act, which holds that “a person must not take a protected animal”, should be tested.

“In the US there is a Supreme Court ruling that ‘take’ is not restricted to physically removing an animal it also includes harming the habitat of a species,” Mr MacAdam said.

“It would appear that in our legislation the words with which ‘take’ is associated seem to be designed to give a wide measure of protection and is, therefore, open to an identical interpretation as that given by the US Supreme Court in 1995 and should be tested.”

Mr MacAdam brought and won a 1970s case to protect local bushland that has since become a reserve.

He said the Act’s defence for the “taking” of a protected animal was that it could “not have been reasonably avoided”.

“The complete destruction of habitat can reasonably be avoided,” he said.

“But everyone is passing the buck so that it looks as if the developers are calling the shots.”

Did you know?

Australia-wide the estimated wild population of koalas is between 43,000 and 80,000 (Australian Koala Foundation)

Koalas only occur naturally in Qld, NSW, Vic, SA.

Each koala’s ‘home’ is made up of several trees called home trees. They visit these same trees regularly.

A forest can only have a certain number of koalas living in it. This is called the forest’s ‘carrying capacity’. Like pasture for sheep, the available gumtrees can only feed a limited number of koalas.

The complete destruction of habitat can reasonably be avoided.

Gympie Times

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