Dire Threat to Koalas from Urban Sprawl in SEQ, new report reveals

A new report to be launched on the Sunshine Coast today shows koalas face an existential threat from urban sprawl and greenfield development in South East Queensland.

The Holding the Line report (PDF 6mb), commissioned by Queensland Conservation Council, shows the new update to the ShapingSEQ regional plan risks taking one of Australia’s fastest growing regions below the 'bare minimum' international benchmark of 30% bushland coverage. Almost 6% of bushland is at risk of being lost to urban sprawl and new developments over the planning time period.

The report, developed by Landscape Planners Shannon Mooney and Andrew Davidson, shows koala habitat is at particular risk, with current coverage at 31%, far short of the 40% needed to maintain viable populations.

Queensland Conservation Council Director Dave Copeman said:

"South East Queensland is an ecological treasure trove of rainforests, bushland, and internationally-listed wetlands and iconic species like the koala.

"All of that is at risk, with the draft ShapingSEQ regional plan continuing to expose bushland and native habitat to urban sprawl and development.

"While the update moves in the right direction to reduce the percentage of new land being developed outside the urban footprint, more needs to be done to protect the koala.

"For South East Queensland's animals and plants to survive and thrive, at least 40% of the region needs to be covered by native bushland and natural ecosystems.

"Currently South East Queensland sits at 35% bushland cover. This report highlights how almost 6% of SEQ bushland is still at risk from new housing and other developments, putting the region at risk of falling below the globally-recognized minimum of 30% bushland cover.

"Koalas are facing a continued bombardment of threats across their habitat with over 3,000 hectares already lost due to current planning measures and natural disasters like wildfire.

"Rather than nurturing critical koala habitat, the ShapingSEQ plan could be another series of attacks, putting the species at further risk of extinction.

"With only 31% of South East Queensland offering suitable koala habitat, we can’t afford to lose a single hectare if we want to save the species."

Sunshine Coast Environment Council spokesperson Narelle McCarthy said:

news-koala-sale-right.png"The findings in this report show how urban sprawl has been fast-tracking the extinction crisis by destroying koala and other threatened species' habitat.

"This is a wake up call that SEQ can't continue to develop at any cost through further fragmentation of wildlife corridors, habitat and vegetation loss.

"It's clear there's no room to go backwards if we are to halt and reverse biodiversity loss of our acclaimed natural assets."

Shannon Mooney, Landscape Planner and co-author of the Report said:

"This report shows that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve at least the 40% bushland cover necessary to avoid the collapse of key habitats for iconic species like the koala. 

"We recommend key changes to the ShapingSEQ plan to ensure the region retains its unique biodiversity into the future, including consolidating and connecting the bushland we currently have, and nurturing the bush that is actively growing back. 

"It is critical for the region to ensure the protection of all mapped biodiversity significant areas within designated development areas, urban footprints, and rural living areas and undertake focussed ecological restoration in riparian zones, coastlines, and hillslopes.

"We also recommend integrating Green infrastructure like fauna crossings, conservation reserves and regional trails into the plan, to ensure the growing population has access to nature, and the community and wildlife remains in good health."

Holding The Line