Monday, 8 February 2021

Great Koala Park study released this month and predictably the NSW timber industry is crying 'the sky is falling!'

The proposed Great Koala National Park will add 175,000 hectares of native state forests to existing protected areas. IMAGE University of Newcastle, Australia

2NUR FM Radio, 2 February 2021:

The University of Newcastle has conducted a study looking at the benefits of what would be Australia’s first large national park dedicated to protecting koala habitat.

The Great Koala National Park (GKNP) would add 175,000 hectares of native state forests to existing protected areas to establish a 315,000- hectare reserve on the NSW Mid North Coast.

The proposed Park stretches across five local government areas – Coffs Harbour, Clarence Valley, Bellingen, Nambucca, and Kempsey, which contain up to 4,550 koalas, or approximately 20% of the NSW koala population.

Findings from the University of Newcastle study showed over 15 years the park would generate $1.2 billion in regional economic output of which $531 million will flow into the region’s economy including $330 million in additional wages.

The research also found the region would benefit from –

  • the creation of 9,800+ additional full-time equivalent jobs
  • investment in the region of $145 million in capital expenditure over 15 years (mapping, tenure changes and habitat restoration plus construction of visitor centre, visitor infrastructure and tracks and trails)
  • investment in the region of $128 million in operating expenditure over 15 years (ongoing construction, habitat management and operation of park-based activities)
  • a boost to the visitor economy of 1 million visitors to the region who will spend $412 million.

They found that a total of 675 direct and related forestry full-time equivalent jobs would be phased out over a 10-year state forest native logging industry transition period.

This estimate is based on 2016 census data indicating that there are 180 direct state forest native logging jobs in the five local government areas.

The report notes that, given the significant decline in the koala population as a result of the recent drought and bushfire season, the environmental value of each individual koala is now significantly higher than a decade ago.

It’s estimated by the NSW bush fire inquiry that about a quarter of the North Coast koalas were lost in the fires,” Professor Roberta Ryan says.

It’s an extremely important area in terms of koala preservation, its the sort of big move that needs to occur if we’re not going to be in a situation where our government presides over the loss of an iconic species in the wild.”

The full Great Koala Park final report can be found here.

As it has for the better part of the last 75 years the NSW timber industry is up in arms about its ability to access native trees for milling and fights all attempts to save forests or the biodiversity and unique native species they contain. Apparently it believes that a plan for a new national park ‘grossly underestimates’ impact on North Coast timber industry.

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