Koalas will become extinct in NSW before 2050 without urgent government intervention, a parliamentary report has found.
The year-long inquiry from the NSW upper house released on Tuesday found habitat loss was the biggest threat to koala populations in the state.
“There must be a significant increase in koala habitat protected from logging, mining, land clearing and urban development,” Committee Chair Cate Faehrmann said in a statement on Tuesday.
Ms Faehrmann says the threatened species was in significant trouble before the unprecedented bushfire season which killed about 5000 koalas.
The committee also found climate change is severely impacting koalas, affecting quality of food and habitat and exacerbating droughts and bushfires.
Images were shown to the inquiry of thirsty koalas unable to receive adequate moisture from their tree leaves, seeking hydration from garden hoses and water bowls.
The report found the NSW Koala Strategy to be ineffective in protecting enough areas for the marsupials to live.
It said the government’s current estimate of 36,000 koalas living in the wild was outdated and unreliable.
Two new national parks have been put forward for the state government to assess their suitability as koala sanctuaries.
Overall, the committee has made 42 recommendations to the NSW government.
“The evidence could not be more stark,” Ms Faehrmann said.
“The only way our children’s grandchildren will see a koala in the wild in NSW will be if the government acts upon the committee’s recommendations.”
Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Tuesday told reporters she was satisfied with the government’s work in protecting koalas, including the funding of koala hospitals in Port Macquarie and Port Stephens.
“If we hadn’t taken action, we would’ve seen those populations continue to diminish and I’m incredibly proud that we put tens of millions of dollars into protecting koalas across the state,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“From memory it was an investment in excess of $60 million.
“I want to be the premier that saves our koala population into the future.”
Halting development of the Shenhua Water coal mine site has been recommended to protect local koala colonies, with Ms Faehrmann saying the project was incompatible with their future existence.
The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia says the report was strong and timely and urged for the restructuring of some laws.
“WWF calls on the NSW premier to rewrite weak land clearing laws to protect koala habitat, greatly increase funding for farmers who actively conserve trees where koalas live, and a transition out of logging koala forests and into plantations,” WWF senior manager Stuart Blanch said in a statement.
The committee was made up of members from several political parties including The Greens, Liberal Party and the Animal Justice Party.