Mr Kean will ask the Chief Scientist to assemble an expert panel to develop the 30-year plan. It would likely involve a combination of expanding or adding new national parks, removing feral predators, fighting the chlamydia disease, and “actively managing our fortress populations”, Mr Kean said.
Doubling the koala population would be “an ambitious target”, and the key would be reducing the multiple threats facing the marsupial particularly habitat loss, Mathew Crowther, an ecologist at the University of Sydney, said.
Still, the task should not focus on the absolute numbers but rather careful monitoring of what was happening to population trends. “If you’ve got breeding females, that’s a population on the up,” he said.
One issue is competition over fertile land. Such soils not only tend to produce eucalyptus leaves that koalas favour because of a higher ratio of nutrients to toxins but they also drew farmers, Associate Professor Crowther said.
“National parks are not the only answer,” Associate Professor Crowther added. “You can do a lot on private land.”
Expectations have been building that the government will secure more national parks in Sydney’s south, home to some of NSW’s healthiest koala populations. Campbelltown and Wollondilly areas are among the targets.
Jeff Angel, head of the Total Environment Centre – which recently released a Sydney Koala Survival Plan – said “solid, quantifiable plans with interim targets are a very good idea”.
The animals are good at breeding in the wild but need wide corridors to spread out. “You can’t have fragmented islands of koala habitat” and expect them to stay healthy, Mr Angel said.
Separately, Mr Kean also outlined how the Berejiklian government rejected a bid by his federal Coalition counterpart Angus Taylor to halve a planned $1 billion in energy assistance during tough negotiations last year.
The Berejiklian government sought $1 billion in Commonwealth support for its emissions reduction efforts in exchange for ditching its backing of Malcolm Turnbull’s signature energy policy.
The NEG sparked a rebellion among conservative Coalition MP that brought down his prime ministership.
Federal energy minister Angus Taylor tried to cut the funding to $500 million during tense talks, Mr Kean said.
NSW, though refused to budge, and Taylor came back with the full sum rather than face embarrassment at the COAG energy ministers’ meeting in Perth last November 22.
“We held the line,” Kean said. “We got a better deal than under the NEG.”
A spokesman for Mr Taylor said the Commonwealth was “very happy with the NSW Energy Deal”, but said the comments on the talks were “not correct”, without elaborating.
Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.