A NEW report by the state’s environmental watchdog has found 35 native animals and plants have been added to threatened species lists, including koalas on the Liverpool Plains.
The report says, in the three years since 2009, intense heatwaves and drought resulted in about a 25 per cent drop in the once-thriving regional koala population.
The NSW Environment Protection Authority’s (EPA) 2012 State of the Environment report also details a number of positive findings, such as the effects of rain on drought-affected areas.
The report highlights changes in community behaviour, with residential water and electricity use down and recycling on the rise.
The report is prepared every three years to equip environmental policy decision makers with the most credible and scientifically based information.
While its release highlighted the NSW environment’s resilience to drought, The Greens said the biodiversity decline should act as a wake-up call to the government’s high conservation land clearing.
Greens MP Cate Faehrmann said it was unacceptable that a further 35 native plants and animals were listed as threatened since 2009.
Among the biodiversity decline figures is a sharp decrease in the region’s koala population.
The eighth report found intense heatwaves during the 2009 drought killed about a quarter of the local species.
A major statewide survey of koalas had shown populations were concentrated along the north coast and in the north-east, particularly on the Liverpool Plains around Gunnedah.
But the decline is believed to be a short-term fluctuation, with a 1986-87 survey finding local koala populations expanded in the intervening two decades.
Last year, the Gunnedah koalas – which help promote the shire as the “koala capital of the world” – were added to the federal threatened species list.
They’re now protected under federal legislation and Gunnedah Shire Council began work with government departments to ensure future developments were assessed to comply with the laws.
Local environmental groups have partly blamed mining developments’ land clearing on the koala decline.
Ms Faehrmann said more laws should be introduced to prevent clearing of any more high conservation value land.
“Mining in areas of high conservation value is under full swing in NSW, with Whitehaven’s proposed coalmine in the already heavily cleared Liverpool Plains set to clear 2000 hectares of high-quality forest alone,” she said.
Ms Faehrmann said the greatest pressure on 87 per cent of threatened species was land clearing, while invasive pests and weed species followed at 70 per cent.
EPA acting chair and chief executive officer Mark Gifford said the report made it clear that there was much work to do when it came to the environment.
In addition to ongoing biodiversity decline, Mr Gifford said particle and ozone pollution remained a challenge in NSW.
Since 2009, when the last report was completed during one of the longest periods of drought in the state’s history, widespread rainfall helped ease the pressure on many parts of the environment.
Mr Gifford said significant improvements were made to water resources’ general health, including the return of natural water flows to many of the state’s parched river systems.
Recovered wetlands included the Murray and Gwydir.