RESIDENTS living around Tanja State Forest have been astounded by the discovery of a new population of koalas only 8km from Bega.
The discovery has put Forests NSW’s timber harvesting plans for the area on hold for the time being.
“This is earth-shattering news,” Friends of Chinnock spokesman Jamie Shaw said today.
“Many people thought koalas were extinct in the Bega Valley, so locating a new population, so close to Bega and Tathra, is a monumental discovery.”
Logging is proposed for 177ha of Tanja State Forest compartments 2102 and 2104, and was scheduled to begin this week.
However, A Forests NSW spokesperson said further consultation over the koala discovery will now take place before any logging starts.
“Harvesting will not commence until the harvest plan is amended for appropriate koala protection prescriptions following consultation with the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) and Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH),” the spokesperson said.
Forests NSW said the finalisation of harvest exclusion zones to protect koalas involves additional surveys in some state forests, including Tanja.
“These additional surveys by OEH are in progress in compartments 2102 and 2104 with some evidence of koalas detected,” the spokesperson said.
“Following completion of the survey, Forests NSW, EPA and OEH will discuss appropriate protection of koalas in the Tanja compartments.
“Timber harvesting will not commence until that consultation has occurred.”
Mr Shaw said he “felt for Forests NSW” and the “political pressure” it was under to supply sawlog and woodchip quotas.
“A lot of people aren’t generally opposed to logging, but when you see a new population of koalas discovered – and quite possibly the last remnants of the Bega Valley koala population - there is genuine concern,” he said.
“Even thinking about going in there now is insane.
“Tanja Forest is extremely valuable koala habitat and this fragile population must be protected from further habitat destruction. They are just too valuable.”
The Friends of Chinnock have called a public meeting at the Tathra Hall on Tuesday at 6pm to brief the community about the koala findings and Forests NSW’s harvest plans.
“We are calling for an immediate moratorium on logging in Tanja Forest,” Mr Shaw said.
“Species impact studies are needed urgently, but most importantly we call on NSW Minister for the Environment Robyn Parker to permanently protect the Tanja koalas.”