The Sutherland Shire has an established and growing populations of koalas that urgently need recognition of their habitat and corridors. Our independent report from Biolink "Sydney Basin Koala Assessment February 2023" identifies Sutherland Shire as a key focal area for Koalas in the Sydney Basin and Koalas have been sighted from Barden Ridge to Loftus, Worona, Heathcote and Engadine and in the Royal National Park (shown below), and a habitat survey from citizen scientists Steve Anyon-Smith and Tom Kristensen also show there is a growing population in Heathcote National Park. However, despite being identified within a Area of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS), koalas in the Sutherland Shire do not have the same legislative protection as koala populations in other parts of the Sydney Basin, because the Sutherland Shire was left off the list of LGAs that the 2021 Koala SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy) applies to.
As development pressure mounts across south-west Sydney and koalas are pushed onto the roads as they find new territory, we are calling for the Sutherland Shire to be urgently added to the Koala SEPP 2021 list, and for immediate investment in evidence based safety upgrades in known koala roadkill hotspots, such as Heathcote Road.
Why the Koala SEPP 2021 is important:
The Koala SEPP 2021 ensures that koala habitat is properly considered in the environmental process. Without it, developers do not need to consider the impact of their development on koalas. The issue was flagged by the EDO in a report we commissioned this year "Protecting Koalas in the Sydney Basin" who highlighted the lack of protections offered to the koala colony in Sutherland Shire as opposed to the surrounding LGAs. For instance, a development in Woronora Heights on habitat that formed an important koala corridor, was approved to be cleared earlier this year. It was only community outrage and ministerial intervention that prevented the lot from being cleared. Had the Koala SEPP 2021 been in place, koalas would have needed to be a least considered in the process.
The Sutherland Shire is also experiencing a significant increase in koala deaths on roads, including four separate incidents in July on Heathcote Road. The koalas in the Sutherland Shire are moving through corridors within the peri-urban interface and it is crucial that habitat in corridors under threat of development are rigorously assessed.
A case for the Koala SEPP 2021 in Sutherland Shire.
It is our view given that:
- Sutherland Shire is in a Koala ARKS
- There has been an infux of both Bionet records, and koalas killed on the roads of Sutherland Shire in the last few years
- Sutherland Shire Council have instituted a Koala Steering Group who are waiting on a SEPP to implement a Koala Plan of Management
- Biolink have identified the Sutherland Shire as a key focal area for koalas
- There has been considerable media and political attention on koalas in the Sutherland Shire
- A yougov survey in November found 84% of residents of NSW was koala habitat protected from development
That adding the Sutherland Shire to the SEPP should be a priority.
It is unfair for this very important koala colony that is expanding from Campbelltown (which is recognised by the NSW Koala Strategy as in need of immediate investment) to lose habitat protection once they cross an imaginary LGA line into the Sutherland Shire. The koalas of the Sutherland Shire need to be taken seriously, and adding them to the Koala SEPP is a straightforward way to given them greater protection, while the reform of the BC Act, and EPBC Act are underway.