Report prepared by Parsons Brinckerhoff for the Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, 2008
- Review of progress in implementing the 1998 National Koala Conservation Strategy (PDF - 362 KB) | (RTF - 3.3 MB)
Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are tree-dwelling, medium-sized marsupials that have an iconic status: an important part of Australia's natural and cultural heritage. Koalas are found largely on flat, fertile lands of the eastern and southern parts of Australia. These lands are those generally preferred for both urban and agricultural development, and as such, the extent of koala habitat has declined. In 1996 concern for the koala's numbers, welfare and conservation, with its numbers declining in part of its range, resulted in the development of the National Koala Conservation Strategy.
The National Koala Conservation Strategy was signed in 1998 by the Commonwealth, States and Territories through the then Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council. The Strategy recognised that protecting and managing koalas is a complex task and that the need for a strategic approach to the management of koalas had become urgent, and was needed to maximise the effectiveness of conservation efforts.
The Strategy identified the major issues for koalas as clearing, fragmentation and degradation of habitat, disease, natural disasters, roads, dogs, and over-browsing. The Strategy addressed these issues with six objectives comprising: conservation of koalas in existing habitat; restoration of degraded habitat; better understanding of the conservation biology of koalas; education; management of captive, sick or injured koalas; and management of over-browsing.
The aim of the Strategy was to conserve koalas by retaining viable populations in the wild throughout their natural range.
In 2006 the Natural Resource Management Ministerial Council agreed to review the Strategy. Reviewing the Strategy was intended to help update nationally consistent objectives for protection and management of koala populations which could be used as a guide for regional and local land-use decision-makers.
Since the release of the 1998 Strategy, major changes have occurred in the legislative context in which the Strategy operates, with new legislation formulated at both state and federal levels — some specific to koalas. There has also been a substantial amount of research and work related to the conservation and management of koalas around the country. Since 1998 there have, however, also been significant local declines in koala populations and koala habitat in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and large numbers of animals continue to die from disease, traffic injury and dog attacks.
In reviewing the Strategy, interviews were completed with a range of stakeholders to determine how effective the strategy had been in achieving its primary aim and the six objectives. Written submissions were also invited.
In general the review found that there had been some work completed towards achieving the aim and objectives of the Strategy, but that the Strategy itself was not properly implemented. There was little evidence to demonstrate that the Strategy had driven any of the achievements over the previous 10 years. Although connections could be drawn between the Strategy and some state-based initiatives, such as the koala management and conservation plans in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland, these connections had not been widely promoted and appeared not to be coordinated through the Strategy. There was a lack of implementation of both the aim and the six objectives of the Strategy.
The review also found that the 1998 Strategy remained a good framework for the conservation and management of koalas. However, recognition, promotion, funding and leadership were required to ensure that its aim and objectives are met.