The Queensland Government has released the Draft South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2019-2024 (Draft Strategy) and Draft Koala Habitat Mapping (Draft Mapping).
Submissions on the Draft Mapping are due by 22 December 2019. Submissions on the Draft Strategy are due on 31 January 2020.
The Draft Mapping introduces new areas of mapped high quality koala habitat which are defined as Koala Priority Areas (KPA). KPA are large, connected areas that contain both koala habitat and restoration areas which are expected to protect over 300,00ha of koala habitat. The KPA can include areas in the urban footprint.
According to the Draft Strategy, the Draft Mapping has been developed using advanced modelling techniques and comprehensive vegetation mapping. The KPA will be updated annually to allow the Government to accurately identify the best quality koala habitat and track changes over time. The linking of the koala habitat mapping with the Government's existing vegetation and land cover mapping will allow the modelling to be updated and refined as new data becomes available.
Government invites a submission "if you think that the Koala Habitat Areas shown on your property are already developed".
The Draft Strategy has a number of fundamental principles driving its outcomes:
- No decline in total area of core koala habitat compared to the 2017 levels;
- No long-term decline in koala population numbers in South East Queensland; and
- No further net loss of remaining habitat.
The Draft Strategy flags amendments to Queensland's planning framework to:
- prohibit the clearing of koala habitat areas within a KPA, regardless of whether the property is within or outside of the urban footprint;
- protect koala habitat that is outside the KPA by reducing the number, scope and complexity of exemptions;
- provide applicable exemptions, including for clearing for a development footprint up to 500 m2, and clearing for firebreaks around buildings and structures; and
- give effect to a new State code for South East Queensland koala habitat.
Amendments are also flagged to the Queensland Environmental Offset Policy to reflect the changes to the planning framework identified above and to make the State responsible for imposing offset conditions for koala habitat in South East Queensland. The Draft Strategy raises the possibility of increasing the current offset ratios.
What does this mean for you?
Submissions on the Draft Mapping close 22 December 2019 and should be made as soon as possible.
It is essential for anyone with an interest in land in South East Queensland to carefully review the Draft Mapping to determine its effect to your interest as well as its accuracy. The proposed legislative amendments will have significant impacts for land within a KPA.
Submissions on the Draft Strategy close 31 January 2020.
 Note: The Department of Environment & Science has removed the ability to review the Draft Mapping following the closure of submissions.
Although it is not clear when the final Koala Habitat Mapping will be released, the Department's website states the following:
"Public validation of the draft koala habitat mapping has now closed, and the map is being updated. The final map is intended to be released in 2020 to support the delivery of the final South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy. If the proposed regulatory reforms are introduced they will include a map amendment process which will allow land owners to apply to have koala habitat areas made, amended or revoked." Back to article