Moree’s mayor Katrina Humphries has launched a stinging attack on “greenies” saying their claims koala habitat is being bulldozed around Moree is an insult to farmers who actually protect koalas.
“Not only is it an insult, it’s a lie,” Mrs Humphries told The Land.
The fourth-generation blacksoiler said the reality was actually the opposite – she’s never seen so many koalas in her life compared to her childhood when she rode around paddocks throughout the district.
Recently two koalas were found up a tree in the Moree central town carpark at the back of Assef’s store.
She said farmers around the area protected koalas and would not divulge where they were because they were concerned greenies would invade their property.
“We’ve had trouble with greenies entering places, leaving gates open and they even crap in the paddocks,” Mrs Humphries said.
“If there is any illegal clearing going on then those people should be punished. As far as we know people are actually legally clearing sapling scrub that would be a fire hazard unless it was done – just as the Aborigines did. Fire is the greatest threat to koalas so people are actually helping to preserve them. If we go fishing on the river and we know there are koalas are about, we don’t light fires, because the smoke will disturb them.”
She knew of many farmers who cared for the habitat of koalas on their properties.
A report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) suggesting large hectares of koala habitat have been bulldozed in the Moree-Collarenebri area has been rebuffed by the NSW Government as lacking veracity.
The WWF said if the rate of clearing in the Moree district in the last two years was extrapolated to the rest of NSW, koalas would be extinct by 2050.
The WWF report claimed clearing almost tripled in the Moree-Collarenebri areas with 8194 hectares cleared in 2017-18, up from 2845ha in 2016-17. It said satellite imagery from a Sentinel 2 satellite was used, which has a 10m resolution.
But the Office of Environment and Heritage and Local Land Services say the methodology lacked veracity.
OEH chief executive Anthony Lean told a NSW Parliament budget estimates committee that OEH went “down to the pixel” on satellite images and matched it with other data to adduce cleared areas.
“We take it down to quite a granular level, pixel level, when we do that work,” he said. “We have done a quick review of that report and it is clear that some of the sites that have been identified are, in fact, invasive native species, the clearing of which is recognised to have environmental values and, in fact, may have been approved.
“There is one specific example in there where 1300 hectares is alleged to have been cleared. Our understanding is that that was in fact authorised by a Property Vegetation Plan [PVP] in 2012 and relates to invasive native species. So that is 1300 hectares of about 11,000; that is more than 10 per cent of the report.”
Local Land Services said Land Management Reforms focus on the need to “balance the needs of our farming community and the environment”. “There are aspects of the code that allow for certain levels of clearing that are then off-set with areas managed specifically for biodiversity purposes,” it said in a release for The Land.
“It also must be remembered, land management work depends on market and seasonal conditions and in many cases will take place over many years. This means any clearing that did occur in the study area in 2017-18 may have been approved in prior years before the introduction of the LMF. Due to lack of clarity about the report’s methodology, it is also unclear whether natural causes of vegetation loss including fire, flood and drought have not been included in its figures.”
An OEH spokesperson said: “OEH uses a satellite monitoring program and also we get reports from the community through the Environment Line. All potential breaches are assessed and if appropriate investigated.” It is evaluating the WWF report with OEH’s satellite surveillance of land clearing.
WWF-Australia conservationist Stuart Blanch said last Friday: “WWF-Australia estimates there are likely less than 20,000 koalas left in NSW and at the current rate, they are on track to be extinct in the state by as early as 2050”.
“We have to stop this excessive tree-clearing if we want to keep koalas alive in the wild for future generations,” he said.
“We are releasing this report on National Threatened Species Day to highlight that the destruction of koala habitat is accelerating in NSW and to call on the government to urgently strengthen the laws to ensure koalas and other threatened native animals are given the protections they need.”