Koalas can be saved

CEO of the Australian Koala Foundation Deborah Tabart inspects trees marked for logging on Goats Knob Road near Tathra.
CEO of the Australian Koala Foundation Deborah Tabart inspects trees marked for logging on Goats Knob Road near Tathra.

THE chief executive officer of the Australian Koala Foundation has called for detailed mapping of the Bega Valley.

In the region to campaign against logging and its threat to the koala, Deborah Tabart – also known as The Koala Woman - believes mapping is essential to better understand the biodiversity of the area, particularly forests, and consequently provide better knowledge of how to protect koalas.

“I have been in this role for 22 years and I have been committed to securing millions of dollars for mapping,” she said.

“Every council needs a decent vegetation map and the local council doesn’t have one.

“With a layered map you can start with the soil and then put on the roads, the tracks, the forest, the waterways, and you can see where everything is at a glance, what’s going on and what can happen when you decide to log in certain areas.”

Speaking on Goats Knob Road just out of Tathra where logging is due to start shortly, Ms Tabart said extensive logging in that area would cause problems.

“If all these trees go then the soil will be washed down into the pristine waters (of the Bega River at Mogareeka) and silt it up.

“And it would also destroy any habitat the koalas have.

“I can’t understand why anyone would want to do either of those things.”

Ms Tabart said the maps were a “blueprint for future planning”.

“The community needs to decide what sort of environment they wish to live in and to make that decision they need access to all the right information,” she said.

“Maps are important in that and as it’s expensive, governments should be providing them all over the country.”

According to Ms Tabart, there is no koala strategy plan for the Bega Valley and one is urgently needed.

“Koalas need about 10 species of trees in an area to survive and if they don’t have that diversity they don’t thrive,” she said.

“Again, that’s why maps are so important for us to see exactly what trees are there and find out where the koalas are likely to be.”

There were so many contradictions in the logging issue, Ms Tabart said, with one of the biggest to do with farmers.

“I’d ask Frank Sartor (NSW Minister for Environment) how he can stop farmers cutting down trees on their own property when next door or just down the road is a huge logging operation doing the same thing.

“It doesn’t make sense.”

Mr Sartor and Minister for Forestry Ian McDonald should “stop playing political games and work to protect the biodiversity of the country” according to Ms Tabart.

Ms Tabart said there were only about 50 koalas in the local area and probably only about 500 in the whole region.

“The koala is a symbol for us all and we need a genuine debate about plans to put in place to help it survive,” she said.

“To that end I have asked Federal Minister for Environment Peter Garrett to list the koala as endangered and I am waiting on the answer.”

Ms Tabart said there was a place for logging but in a sustainable way and for a specific purpose.

“I visited the area in 1992 and since then every saw log has turned into being woodchipped; it is outrageous that has happened.”

Ms Tabart said she believed that both sides of the community had “some degree of common ground” in the debate and “the more people know the better their decisions”.

“The koala is a jigsaw piece in a large puzzle and it is time to work together to understand what is happening,” she said.

“This environment is our lifeblood and at the rate we are going it is only a question of time before we run out of forests, not only from logging but from degradation afterwards.

“And of course, when that happens, koalas will be wiped out.

“This is a wonderful place to live; it is paradise down here, let’s look after it and keep it that way.”

• At a meeting attended by about 100 people at Tathra earlier this week Ms Tabart spoke of the plight of the koala and its need to be protected. She said koalas were in serious decline and called for logging to cease. Ms Tabart also said she found the lack of public consultation from Forests NSW shocking and its refusal to talk directly and honestly with the local residents regrettable.