We are often told, especially in replies to correspondence, that the NSW Government is following the advice of the NSW Chief Scientist when it comes to the survival of endangered koalas in South-West Sydney. However, we have found this advice is largely cherry-picked or is open to an interpretation that almost always falls in favour to the developer.
One such case is the Mallaty Creek Koala Corridor in Appin, which is currently used by Koalas to travel from the Nepean to Georges Rivers. If the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan is approved as written, this corridor will cease to exist as a wildlife corridor for koalas and other wildlife, as they will fence it off once the Appin North Precinct commences.
In the Advice on the protection of the Campbelltown Koala population Koala Independent Expert Panel 30 April 2020 the panel comments that “this corridor is suitable for koala movement and should be protected with exclusion fencing and additional buffer zones” (pg 53), however this advice was ignored, and only one corridor will be made available to Koalas in Appin which fails to give Koalas redundancy options in the face of natural disasters such as bushfires.
Moreso, Advice regarding the protection of koala populations associated with the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan 14 May 2021 the Chief Scientist states "In the context of reducing threats, it would be viable to reduce the occurrence of fingers of habitat that have a large edge: area ratio by retaining the habitat strips and revegetating the gaps in between. Koala habitat in river and creek valleys provides important refugia and resilience to warming and drying climates, a characteristic that is likely to become increasingly important with climate change." (pg 36).
Not only is Mallaty Creek a currently functional Koala Corridor, it is listed by the NSW Government as a "Biodiversity Corridor of Regional Significance". By fencing this corridor off to wildlife, it ceases to exist as a fully functional biodiversity corridor. The Chief Scientist Panel are themselves unclear how this has been addressed “the Panel is not sure if the Nepean Creek to Beulah Corridor (Corridor C) and Mallaty Creek (Corridor D) are included (counted) as koala habitat, as koalas will not be able to access these lands" (page 22, 2021).
Questions remain that if these corridors will no longer be used as koala habitat, and cease to function as biodiversity corridors, has this been appropriately managed so there is no net loss to wildlife habitat? Despite experts agreeing the Cumberland Plain cannot be adequately offset, it is unclear if they have addressed the loss of of a functional biodiversity corridors with additional habitat offsetting, given these vast corridors have been already classified as avoided land.
If the NSW Government was serious about protecting koalas in South-West Sydney it would maintain and restore all functional corridors, which not only enable movement for koala populations to recover, but also serve as important habitat for koalas, and many other threatened species, to live in.
As the Chief Scientist clearly states: “It is critical to ensure connectivity between important patches of koala habitat. Large connected areas linking various koala habitats sustain populations by facilitating dispersal of populations, supporting breeding, providing resources for feeding and protecting against localised extinctions (NSW Government, 2020c). Ensuring as far as possible that the habitat has multiple connections can help to prevent the formation of dead ends and population sinks and ensure that koalas (and other species) have routes to escape threats such as bushfires.” (pg. 46, 2020).
We urge the public to write to NSW Environment and Planning Ministers to amend the CPCP, so we don't lose the only healthy and growing popultation of Koalas in NSW. You can take action here: https://www.tec.org.au/cumberland_plain_conservation_plan