Help Save Sydney's Last Koala Population - an Objection to the Draft Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan

Photo Credit: Wedderburn koala by Pat Durman

The Draft Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (the Plan) is currently on exhibition until Friday 9 October 2020.

If the Plan is approved in its current form, the recovering and chlamydia-free South West Sydney Koala population will eventually lose most of its habitat and likely become extinct. The Plan will also have a significant impact on eight threatened ecological communities, 25 flora species and 24 fauna species, including the Swift Parrot, Powerful Owl, Regent Honeyeater, Squirrel Glider, Yellow Bellied Glider and East Coast Free-tail Bat.

To date, the Plan only promises to set aside 5,475 hectares of native vegetation to compensate for the loss of 10,014 hectares of rural land.  Alarmingly, the Plan acknowledges that 1,014.6 hectares of the critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland will be impacted by the proposed development. Only 6,400 hectares of this unique and once plentiful species still exists.

The Plan's proposed construction of 120 km of Koala exclusion fencing will isolate and fragment Koala colonies, especially because it protects only one of the six east-west movement corridors recommended in the Chief Scientist's Koala Report. (see "Advice on the protection of the Campbelltown Koala population " 30 April 2020). These corridors provide the koalas with important and easy access between the Georges and Nepean rivers, allowing them to access refuge areas in times of stress and also cross-breed with different colonies.

The Plan offers no assessment of how the loss of more rural land will impact Sydney's food bowl. Currently, the Sydney basin supplies 20% of Sydney's fresh food needs and contributes around $1 billion to NSW's economy. The Plan also fails to give enough consideration to how more urban development will contribute to the heat island effect in one of the hottest areas in metropolitan Sydney.

If the Plan is granted biodiversity certification by the state and federal governments, the 10,014 hectares of rural land reclassified as 'urban capable' can be released for development without the need for further environmental impact assessments. Future opportunities to secure koala habitat or mitigate environmental damage on the 'urban capable' rural land will be lost.

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