Australian state fails on koala conservation while relying on faulty offset schemes, experts say


In the leadup to his election as Premier of New South Wales, Chris Minns promised the establishment of a Great Koala National Park in the Australian state as part of the Labor government’s agenda to protect the endangered koala (Phascolarctos cinereus).

One year later, the park is still not established and native woodland logging is happening inside proposed park boundaries, says Stephen Long, a Walkley-award-winning journalist at the Australia Institute, who showed video footage to Mongabay.

Long joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss the Labor government’s reasons for delaying the park’s establishment, which he says the premier justifies with a need to find a way to monetize its carbon, as Long previously revealed in a video report.

Also joining the podcast is researcher and quantitative ecologist at the University of Melbourne, Yung En Chee, who details the biodiversity offset scheme in New South Wales.

Criticized by the NSW auditor general, the scheme has failed to deliver on outcomes it promises,while sometimes ‘double dipping’ by designating an already protected area as the land benefiting from the biodiversity offset. In some cases, the government stops monitoring conservation projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Housing developments approved using likely incomplete data sets of koala populations have also raised concerns about the efficacy of biodiversity offsets. These issues compound the concerns about the status of one of the world’s most iconic marsupials, and doubts over market-based solutions’ ability to protect biodiversity at scale.

Drone footage of state forestry logging machines in New South Wales clearing native woodland in the area of the proposed great koala national park, according to Stephen Long. Image courtesy of Yasmine Wright Gittins/Australia Institute.
Drone footage of state forestry logging machines in New South Wales clearing native woodland in the area of the proposed great koala national park, according to Stephen Long. Image courtesy of Yasmine Wright Gittins/Australia Institute.

“There seems to be a sort of addiction to the notion of market-based mechanisms and the ability of market-based mechanisms to address market failures like this. So [you get] this sort of ideological commitment to market essentialism, despite the fact that biodiversity is an incredibly complex phenomenon,” says Chee.

This article by Mike DiGirolamo was first published by Mongabay.com on 28 May 2024. Lead Image: Gumbaynggirr Country is home to the dunggiirr, the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), one of the totem animals for the Gumbaynggirr people. Koalas numbers are estimated to be in the tens of thousands in the state of New South Wales. Image by Steve Franklin via Unsplash (Public domain). 

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