Warning of dire threat to koalas from urban sprawl

By Robyn Wuth, AAP 18 September 2023
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Koalas are under increasing pressure as southeast Queensland grapples with a housing crisis and predicted population explosion of 2.2 million people.

The Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) warns the predicted population boom increases the risk of koala extinction, with the species under intense threat from urban sprawl and greenfield development.  

The council analysed the Palaszczuk government’s regional housing plan, released in August, saying it allowed for only the “bare minimum” of koala habitat protection.

The blueprint unlocked housing supply to allow the construction of 900,000 homes by 2046. 

However, the council fears almost six per cent of bushland will be lost to make way for 2.2 million extra residents expected to call the region home. 

Deputy Premier Steven Miles said Queensland must plan for the population boom. 

“More housing is needed than ever before, and we need a plan that ensures homes are delivered when and where they need to be, while also protecting Queensland’s great lifestyle,” Mr Miles said. 

“This plan doesn’t mean growth everywhere – it plans for growth in the suburbs that can cater for growth.” 

Related: Unbearable loss: our koalas are endangered

However, the council has spent weeks analysing the blueprint and says it ramps up pressure on the region’s threatened koala population. 

“Southeast Queensland is an ecological treasure trove of rainforests, bushland and internationally listed wetlands and iconic species like the koala,” director Dave Copeman said.

“All of that is at risk, with the new ShapingSEQ regional plan opening up more bushland and native habitat to urban sprawl and development.” 

If the region’s animals and plants are to have any hope not only to survive but to thrive, at least 40 per cent of the area needs to be covered by native bushland and natural ecosystems, the council said. 

“Southeast Queensland sits at 35 per cent bushland cover,” Mr Copeman said.

“This plan earmarks a further six per cent of southeast Queensland bushland for new housing, putting the region at risk of falling below the globally recognised minimum of 30 per cent bushland cover.” 

He said natural disasters and ongoing development threatened the koala habitat.

“Rather than nurturing critical koala habitat, the ShapingSEQ plan could be another series of attacks, putting the species at further risk of extinction,” Mr Copeman said.

“We can’t afford to lose a single hectare if we want to save the species.”

A spokesperson for the deputy premier said the conservation council was consulted and supported the plan’s release.

The plan took into account critical koala habitats and was focused on increasing housing density in areas that could accommodate it.

“We know we can’t rely on traditional models and greenfield development, because it has negative impacts on the environment and we know already developed areas are largely where Queenslanders want to live,” the spokesperson said.

The council said the government was moving in the right direction but must do more to ensure koala habitat protection.

Related: Landlocked: Kangaroos trapped by urban sprawl have nowhere left to go