Conservationist calls for parliamentary inquiry into koala deaths
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Conservationist calls for parliamentary inquiry into koala deaths

The conservationist who plans to take the Queensland government to court over its alleged slow pace in protecting koalas now wants an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the relocation of 264 koalas at Coomera on the Gold Coast in 2014, which resulted in the deaths of many of the animals.

It is unclear how many koalas died in this “koala translocation” process to make way for the construction of the Coomera Town Centre.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with Nala the koala at Daisy Hill during the 2017 election campaign.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk with Nala the koala at Daisy Hill during the 2017 election campaign.

Photo: AAP

Australians for Animals co-ordinator Sue Arnold declared on Wednesday her conservation group would take legal action against the Queensland government.

On Friday she called for a parliamentary inquiry into the deaths of the Coomera koalas in 2014.

“There needs to be an urgent parliamentary inquiry into the Coomera koalas and the role of the government in issuing scientific permits to facilitate the Coomera Town Centre development.”

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Ms Arnold said she met with Environmental Defenders Office lawyers on Friday morning to prepare her legal action.

Ms Arnold’s comments came as Queensland’s Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch defended the state government’s actions as koala populations continue to decline in south-east Queensland.

Australians for Animals co-ordinator Sue Arnold.

Australians for Animals co-ordinator Sue Arnold.

Photo: Supplied

A range of koala reports in Queensland show the species is now “locally extinct” in some areas where koala habitat has been cleared.

Fairfax Media asked Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk if she felt her government was vulnerable to the legal action.

However, a response came instead from Ms Enoch, who again referred to a new Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy being formed after the establishment of a new Queensland Koala Advisory Council in the second half of 2018.

Leanne Enoch, Queensland's environment minister.

Leanne Enoch, Queensland's environment minister.

Photo: Supplied

That process itself - to build a new koala conservation strategy - comes two years after a group of koala experts were asked in July 2016 to provide “expert advice” to manage koalas in south-east Queensland.

“We established a Koala Expert Panel [in 2016], led by Associate Professor Jonathan Rhodes from University of Queensland, and made up of highly regarded experts in koala conservation, to provide expert advice to government on how to protect koalas in south-east Queensland,” Ms Enoch said.

“Earlier this year we released the final report from the Koala Expert Panel, and accepted the panel’s six recommendations to better address threats to koalas, habitat protection and habitat restoration in south-east Queensland,” she said.

Ms Enoch said the Queensland government is now reviewing “the relevant components of the planning framework” that are linked to protecting koala habitat.

“We need to work together to protect our koalas. That means all levels of Government, industry, the community, and not-for-profit organisations focusing their energy and resources on actions that will make a difference on the ground.”

She said the Queensland government was in “the final stages” of establishing Queensland’s new Koala Advisory Panel.

“This council will provide advice on the implementation of the Koala Conservation Strategy, currently in development,” she said.

Ms Arnold listened to Ms Enoch’s comments and then said it was “all hot air”.

“Until such time as the Queensland government legally protects the remaining koala habitat, all the words are just hot air,” she said.

The Australian Koala Foundation has a similar stance and believes Queensland should sensibly prioritise protecting south-east Queensland's remaining koala habitat urgently as part of its push for a Koala Protection Act.

Ms Arnold said Queensland needs to rethink its “koala translocation” policy, which is an issue in the Queensland Koala Expert Panel's report in May 2018.

Ms Arnold and koala expert Professor Frank Carrick from the University of Queensland both said the policy, in reality, meant koalas were simply shifted to allow development to start.

“The Queensland Premier and the minister need to categorically deny that they are about to adopt translocation of koalas to facilitate development,” Ms Arnold said.

In the May report, Queensland's Koala Expert Panel suggested translocation of koalas is possible under certain circumstances.

Ms Arnold and Professor Carrick are concerned about two phrases within the May 2018 report, which appear to be contradictory, they said.

The report recommends enabling "regulated translocation to be used as a component of the management of at-risk koalas where this is considered to be beneficial for koalas both on animal welfare and conservation grounds" but also ensuring "translocation cannot be considered during the development assessment process as an ‘alternative’ to in-situ habitat and population protection".