Destruction of iconic koala habitat sparks public outcry in Australia
Port Stephens, Australia - Bushfires, habitat fragmentation, and vehicle collisions have made Australia’s koalas increasingly vulnerable to extinction over the past decades. Despite all this, the government still approved the clearing of another 130 acres of koala habitat.
Sussan Ley, the Australian federal minister for the environment, recently approved the expansion of a rock quarry in Port Stephens, north of Sydney, which will destroy at least 130 acres of koala habitat.
Her decision sparked widespread outrage among locals and environmental activists, the Guardian reported.
"As minister for the environment, I find this a disappointing outcome," said the environment minister for the state of New South Wales, Matt Kean.
Upon taking office, Kean had promised to double the state’s koala population by 2050. But the federal government's frequent approval of land-clearing and logging has thwarted his plans so far.
Public outcry among Greens and activists
Activists and politicians from the Green party have turned to social media to call for action and denounce the controversial decision.
Meanwhile, Sussan Ley has defended her decision, claiming that she asked Hanson, the company running the project, to come up with a plan to replant over 180 acres of suitable habitat on the quarry site in the next 12 months.
She said the expansion would be a "net gain" for koalas and would provide "better-quality habitat than is there at present."
"Matt Kean may well be preoccupied with the politics around koalas but I am focused on one thing only, achieving genuine conservation outcomes," she continued.
But environmentalists are concerned planting the trees will take too much time and koala populations require immediate protection.
An Australian Greens spokesperson, Sarah Hanson-Young, claimed that public anger over the quarry's expansion was legitimate.
"The devastation of the summer bushfires are still fresh in people’s minds and no one wants more habitat destroyed or koalas killed," she said.
According to a recent New South Wales parliamentary report, the state's koalas will become extinct by 2050 unless their habitat is protected.
"Saving the koala should be above politics and I welcome minister Kean’s acknowledgement more should be done to save our national treasure," Hanson-Young said.
Cover photo: alizadastudios/123RF