Most northerly Koalas in danger - Beattie must intervene!

‘Friends of the Earth Kuranda’ are calling on Queensland Premier Peter Beattie to protect the koala across its full geographical range by rejecting a local Council decision to approve a development threatening what may be the most northerly surviving population of wild koalas.

“We call on the Beattie Government to overturn Mareeba Shire Council’s recent development approval for an ATV (all-terrain vehicle) entertainment park in Koah, between Kuranda and Mareeba on the Cairns Highlands. Only a year ago, a koala was photographed on a block adjacent to the proposed development - proving wild koalas survive as far north as this area” said Sarah Isaacs, spokesperson for FoE Kuranda.

“The Beattie Government apparently regards koalas as ‘common’ in Queensland, but that’s obviously not true for this region. Many decades ago, koalas were seen as far north as Cooktown, but the Koah sighting is one of a few in far north Queensland in recent years. These koalas may be the remnants of a genetically distinct sub-group; no one knows, as the necessary research has never been done.

“It would be a disgrace if the Beattie Government does not intervene and quash Mareeba Council’s appalling development approval. There are many alternative locations where ATVs can be driven round and round for fun and commercial gain. Protecting the koala’s range takes precedence over a development that could easily be located elsewhere.

Gretchen Timmer-Kagan, owner of a property immediately adjacent to the proposed ATV park, said: “A documented sighting of a male koala occurred last year on our property. He was making mating calls and another koala was heard responding. The male koala then ran toward the responding call in the direction of the neighbouring (proposed ATV) property.

She added ”Koalas used to live in Koah and are trying to re-establish themselves. The Queensland Parks and Wildlife branch of the EPA were sufficiently concerned to contact Mareeba Shire Council about this issue the day before the meeting. But wildlife conservation does not appear to be a priority for Mareeba Council.”

Ms Isaacs concluded with FoE Kuranda’s key demands: “The Premier must block this ill-sited development and not play Pontius Pilate while Australia’s most northerly koalas go extinct.”

For more information contact:

- Sarah Isaacs of FoE Kuranda on (07) 4085 0054

- Koah resident Gretchen Timmer-Kagan on (07) 4093 7967

Send an email to Premier Beatty urging him to act!

To: The Hon Peter Beattie, Premier of Queensland thepremier@premiers.qld.gov.au

Copied to the Hon Desley Boyle, Minister for Environment, Local Government, Planning and Women ELGPW@ministerial.qld.gov.au

Dear Mr Beattie

A recent confirmed sighting of a koala in the Koah area within Mareeba Shire is exciting news. The northerly population of this icon species is not apparently completely extinct in the wild - although the rarity of sightings in far north Queensland indicates that it is extremely endangered at the northern end of its natural range.

It also highlights the very poor protection your Government currently offers koalas. This remnant population of koalas on the Atherton Tablelands is not designated as 'endangered' under Queensland law - a travesty of the real situation if we are to conserve wild species across their natural range.

I also understand that although there is a State Government project to map koala populations, presumably with a view to better protecting them, it does not at present include provision to map these most northerly koalas at all!

I ask you to change Government policy, accept that koalas do exist in the far north of the State, embrace that fact enthusiastically and set about giving the remaining population adequate protection through appropriate research and genuine conservation strategies.

In the immediate future, please over-ride the disgraceful decision by Mareeba Shire Council to approve development of an 'ARV' (all-terrain vehicle) park in the block adjacent to where the Koah koalas were last seen. Your Government has the powers to do so under the State's Integrated Planning Act. Please use them without delay!

Yours xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx