Friday 15 September 2023

The Great Koala National Park is not an extinction panacea

The Minns Government’s proposed Great Koala National Park is not an extinction panacea for koalas, the President of Forestry Australia Dr Michelle Freeman.

“We all care about protecting koalas,” Dr Freeman said. “They’re an iconic part of our national identity, an important part of our biodiversity, and it’s the right thing to do.

“But, it is simplistic to suggest that locking away forests is the great panacea for saving koalas from extinction. It is also not consistent with the science to point the finger of blame at the timber harvesting industry.

“Such attitudes ignore the fact that there are many and varied threats to koalas in New South Wales and detracts from our ability to have an open discussion about what is really needed.

“There’s climate change, bushfires, pests, diseases, a lack of active management, roadkill, urbanisation and land clearing, to name a few.

“Slapping up a National Park sign on the Mid North Coast does not guarantee our ability to manage these threats or to grow koala populations.”

Dr Freeman said that for the Great Koala National Park to be successful, the Minns Government needed a clear, strategic, well-funded long-term plan for the active management of these areas.

“A quick glance across New South Wales, and you’ll see National Parks are grossly underfunded and passively managed, exacerbating unintended threats to koalas,” Dr Freeman said.

“We need well managed and appropriately funded National Parks to play a critical role in conserving biodiversity. But, we should not be blinded by the misconception that the only way to protect any species, including koalas, is to create more conservation reserves.

“In fact, experience shows us that declaring a National Park does not equal koala population growth.

“Part of the Pilliga forest in the Central-West was converted from a State Forest to a State Conservation Area in the mid 2000’s, and timber harvesting was shut-down.

“The koala population did not increase, it’s continued to decline, significantly.

“The scientific evidence shows that active management is key to improving forest health, resilience and biodiversity, including our koalas.

“Active management is needed to maintain and restore koala habitat, through appropriate fire regimes, managing weed and pest animals, mitigating disease, and promoting healthier, more drought resilient trees.

“Forestry tools such as ecological thinning and strategic prescribed burning, for example, can achieve these outcomes.

“With these tools we can strategically manage forests, to better control bushfire risks and enhance forest health, for the benefit of our koalas.”

“I urge Minister Penny Sharpe and Minister Tara Moriarty to work with Forestry Australia and our scientists to find genuine solutions for the challenges facing koalas, and to improve the health and resilience of our forests.”



Forestry Australia is an independent professional association of more than 1,200 forest scientists, managers and growers who work in native forests, plantations and provision of environmental services. Its members are committed to the principles of sustainable forest management and applying these principles to generate environmental, social and economic outcomes in all types of forests and land tenures.


Michelle has a double degree in Science (Ecology) and Forestry, and a PhD from the University of Melbourne. Her PhD was in partnership with CSIRO Darwin looking at savanna fire and tree dynamics of northern Australia, as part of the Tiwi Carbon Study. She has worked in timber harvesting operations, forest management planning and regulation in Victoria and New South Wales and is currently a forest and land management consultant.

For further information:
Danielle McKay
Mob: 0438 390 273