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‘Alarmingly relaxed’: Government slammed for koala inquiry response

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“Recommendations such as the government urgently investigates the ‘utilisation of core koala habitat on private land and in state forests to replenish koala habitat lost in the bushfires’ appear to be rejected out of hand,” Cate Faehrmann, the Greens MP and chair of the upper house committee, said.

“Many of the key recommendations, the vast majority of which were supported by all committee members because they are what needs to be done to save koalas from extinction, seem to have been rejected outright.”

The inquiry’s report, released last June, found koalas were on track for extinction in the wild in NSW before 2050 with habitat loss the main driver of their demise. Environment Minister Matt Kean said in the following month that he would set a goal to double the numbers of the animals – believed to be as few as 15,000 to 20,000 – by 2050.

Logging in the Lower Bucca State Forest in northern NSW: the government said it 'noted' the recommendation for a Great Koala National Park.

Logging in the Lower Bucca State Forest in northern NSW: the government said it ‘noted’ the recommendation for a Great Koala National Park.Credit:Kate Geraghty

“Koalas are one of our most iconic animals,” Mr Kean said on Monday. “We must do everything we can to ensure that they not only survive but thrive into the future.”

The government has asked the state’s chief scientist to assemble an expert panel to develop the plan to double koala numbers, he said.

His Labor counterpart, Kate Washington said urgent action was needed to protect koala habitat.

“Instead of heeding the shocking warning, the government has failed to commit to 31 of the inquiry’s 42 recommendations,” she said.

Jacqui Mumford, acting chief executive of the Nature Conservation Council, said the government’s response was “alarmingly relaxed about the looming extinction” of the species.

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Separately, Prince Charles on Tuesday will use his Sustainable Markets Initiative to launch a global fund to raise $US10 billion ($13 billion) to support biodiversity, including in Australia, by 2022.

Martijn Wilder, the former chair of the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and co-founder of Pollination, is among the founder partners of the alliance that aims to draw private capital into protecting wildlife.

“There is a growing global focus on financing nature and biodiversity,” he said. “This initiative joins those like the Taskforce on Nature-related Financial Disclosure [to tackle global warming] and is another indication of the momentum of financial institutions stepping forward to address the twin crises of climate change and the loss of nature.”

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