"Bluejeans" a 6 year old female koala at Waterways Wildlife Park in Gunnedah. Photo: Dallas Kilponen
Queensland has signalled strong opposition to the national protection of koalas under federal threatened species laws, with Premier Campbell Newman condemning the move as ''mindless green tape''.
Mr Newman has challenged Prime Minister Julia Gillard to ''have a long hard look'' at the listing's implications, warning it will mean job cuts in Queensland's construction industry.
''It's more needless duplication, it's more mindless green tape, it's more delay and obstruction from Canberra,'' Mr Newman said.
Federal environment minister Tony Burke announced yesterday Australia's most ''at risk'' koala population - those in Queensland, NSW and the ACT - will be listed as vulnerable under national environment protection laws.
But koalas in Victoria and South Australia are excluded from the listing.
Mr Burke said populations in these states were ''eating themselves out of suitable foraging habitat'' and numbers needed to be managed.
The decision has angered conservation groups, who want all koala populations covered.
Humane Society International program manager Alexia Wellbelove said national protection was ''the best chance for long-term survival and recovery of all populations''.
Ms Wellbelove said a recent pledge by the Gillard government to ''remove green tape'' and give greater powers to the states and territories for threatened species protection could allow development to be fast-tracked in koala habitat.
Friends of the Earth Australia said failure to list Victoria's koalas would jeopardise survival of Strzelecki Ranges koalas, which are genetically different to other populations.
''Almost all of Victoria's koala populations are the result of translocations, sourced from a handful of koalas sent to French Island from South Gippsland in the 1880s. Effectively these koalas have low genetic diversity compared to the only non-translocated koala population which is based in the Strzelecki Ranges,'' Friends of Earth spokesman Anthony Amis said.
One of Australia's top koala scientists, University of Central Queensland ecologist Professor Alistair Melzer, welcomed the listing as ''a big step forward'', but warned possible loopholes could allow developers to side-step the legal obligations of the federal listing.
''We will have to wait and see if they intend to respect and work with the listing or look at ways to get around it.
''A lot will depend now on what happens at state level,'' he said.
Professor Melzer said action was needed to protect koala habitat, boost research for koala diseases, and deal with threats such as roadkill and dog attacks in urban areas.
''The listing alone will not save the koala,'' he said.