LGAs in south-west Sydney were responsible for 86% of roads strikes on the last generation* of Koalas in the entire Sydney Basin (Biolink, 2023).
The south-west of Sydney is home to the critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland, which is prime habitat for the Koala and many other threatened species. In recent years, new housing developments have encroached on the Cumberland Plain with only 9% of the plain remaining intact (NSW Gov, 2023). This has also resulted in thousands of extra people driving thousands more cars, necessitating the widening of existing roads and the creation of new ones, which dangerously fragments the scarce remaining Koala habitat.
New analysis for SBKN by Biolink shows this correlates with an alarming upwards trend of Koalas hit by cars on the roads in South West Sydney over the last three koala generations. In Campbelltown and Wollondilly already high koala strike numbers have doubled in the last generation, in Sutherland Shire and Wingecarribee (Southern Highlands) they have increased five fold. Liverpool, a strategic area for the Campbelltown koala colony to expand into, is also seeing an increase in car strikes.
Phillips et al. (2007) determined that it takes just 3% loss of koalas per year to drive population decline. The South West of Sydney is already in this red zone, with many new developments currently seeking approval bound to exacerbate this issue.
In the last two generations car strikes in Wollondilly have nearly doubled from 23 to 41 from 2016-2021. This correlates with a population increase of 5,442 in Wollondilly LGA, living in 2,133 new private dwellings from 2016-2021 (ABS Census Data).
In the last two generations car strikes in Campbelltown have nearly doubled from 22 to 39 from 2016-2021. This correlates with a population increase of 19,513 in Campbelltown LGA, living in 7,783 new private dwellings from 2016-2021 (ABS Census Data).
In the last two generations car strikes in the Wingecarribee Shire have more than quintupled from 5 to 26. This correlates with a population increase of 4,827 in Wingecarribee Shire LGA, living in 1,956 new private dwellings from 2016-2021 (ABS Census Data).
In the last two generations car strikes in the Sutherland Shire have quintupled from 4 to 20. This correlates with a population increase of 11,747 in Sutherland Shire LGA, living in 12,464 new private dwellings from 2016-2021 (ABS Census Data).
In the last two generations Liverpool car strikes have doubled from 2 to 4. This correlates with a population increase of 29,120 in Liverpool LGA, living in 11,936 new private dwellings from 2016-2021 (ABS Census Data).
The trend for koala strikes in the future will be enough to send the only healthy and growing population of koalas in NSW into decline. Population growth planned for South-West Sydney will be 31.25% higher that in other areas of Sydney, including large developments on core koala habitat, pushing koalas to the brink. (NSW Gov 2015)
The NSW Office of Planning and the Environment projected that the population in South-West Sydney will increase over 10 years (2021-2031) by 164,600 with many large developments occurring on core occupied Koala Habitat, further fragmenting koala corridors, and forcing koalas to find new home ranges across roads.
Developments on core koala habitat are occurring because of the NSW Government’s Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (CPCP), prepared by the NSW Government to support the delivery of new housing, jobs, and infrastructure for the Western Parkland City until 2056. The geographic area covered by the plan extends from north of Windsor to Picton in the south, and from the Hawkesbury-Nepean River in the west to the Georges River near Liverpool in the east, and comprises around 200,000 hectares of land. This includes parts of eight local government areas – Wollondilly, Camden, Campbelltown, Liverpool, Fairfield, Penrith, Blacktown and Hawkesbury - with the majority of these councils home to the endangered Koala. The CPCP was the first proposal to seek strategic biodiversity certification under Part 8 of the BC Act and was approved by NSW Environment Minister James Griffin on 17 August 2022. (EDO 2023)
Strategic Biodiversity Certification means areas zoned for housing in the CPCP do not need to be environmentally assessed despite being classified as core koala habitat with clear evidence of koalas on site. The CPCP is currently with the Federal Environment Minister who has an opportunity to prevent further displacement and decline of koalas by overruling development on their precious habitat.
Total Environment Centre's Sydney Basin Koala Policy calls for the removal planning law loopholes that allow development to proceed, including to:
- Gazette an environmental veto (Koala gateway) for Koala habitat on all development applications, including state significant development, by bolstering safeguards in assessment and determination processes:
- Addressing ongoing concerns with the operation and implementation of the Koala SEPP
- Strengthening the ‘serious and irreversible impacts’ mechanism
- Prevent the use of offsets for development in the habitat of endangered and critically endangered species
- Improve community/environment appeal rights on developments
- Translocation of Koalas is not an alternative to allow clearing of habitat
- Review development applications, LEPs and strategic plans in train for Koala protection implications.
*A generation time represents the average age of reproducing adults in a population. It is broadly accepted (including by the IUCN) that koala generation time is 6 years. The occurrence of koala sightings in the same area over three consecutive generations tells us that the population is breeding, because koalas are existing here for longer than one koala lifespan. At the time of analysis 2022 sightings did not represent a full year of data so are recorded separately on the maps.
Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2023). Census Data. https://www.abs.gov.au/census/find-census-data/search-by-area
Biolink. (2023). Sydney Basin Bioregion: Koala habitat and population assessment. https://assets.nationbuilder.com/sydneykoalanetwork/pages/32/attachments/original/1676612494/Sydney_Basin_Koala_Assessment.pdf?1676612494
Environmental Defenders Office (2023). Protecting koalas in the Sydney Basin bioregion Strengthening NSW laws to protect the trees that koalas call home. https://assets.nationbuilder.com/sydneykoalanetwork/pages/32/attachments/original/1676612631/EDO_Report_-_Protecting_koalas_in_the_Sydney_Basin_Bioregion_February_2023_.pdf?1676612631
NSW Office of the Environment and Heritage (2023).Cumberland Plain Woodland in the Sydney Basin Bioregion - profile. https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspeciesapp/profile.aspx?id=10191
NSW Office of Planning and the Environment (2015) Population, Household & Dwelling Projections (South West Subregion). https://www.planning.nsw.gov.au/Research-and-Demography/Demography/~/media/CDC80D3376524C2CB146BF2D9022B903.ashx#:~:text=The%20South%20West%20subregion%20will,of%201.6%25%20for%20Sydney%20overall.
Phillips S., Hopkins M. and Callaghan J (2007) Conserving koalas in the Coomera-Pimpama Koala Habitat Area –a view to the future. Report to Gold Coast City Council. Biolink Ecological Consultants, Uki, NSW. https://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/threatenedspecies/determinations/PDKoalapopTweed.pdf