Environmental Trust - Protection of koalas in Murrah Flora Reserves
The Environmental Trust engaged the Commission to evaluate the Trust's Protection of Koalas in Murrah Flora Reserves project.
In 2015-16, the Trust provided $2.5 million grant to Forestry Corporation NSW (FCNSW) to deliver the project over four years. The project aimed to enhance the conservation status of areas within three state forests on the NSW far south coast to further protect the last remaining koala population in the region, and protect Aboriginal cultural heritage sites.
The project also funded actions to minimise impacts on the local timber industry and protect jobs. The grant was made under the Trust’s new government priorities funding stream. This stream supports new and high priority government issues that address point-in-time environmental issues or complement new policy or legislative frameworks.
In December 2021, we provided our final report to the Trust with the following findings and recommendations:
- We found that the project delivered the expected short-term outcomes. The reserves were gazetted in 2016, thereby changing these areas’ management objectives and increasing their conservation status. As a result, timber harvesting ceased in the reserves. The conservation of local koala populations and significant Aboriginal cultural values is now the primary management objective of the reserves.
- FCNSW met its wood supply obligations to the local timber mills by sourcing timber from other state forests in other regions. Consistent with the objective of the project, it used most of the grant funding to subsidise the additional costs which involved minimising the economic impact on the mills and protecting local jobs.
- While expected short-term project outcomes were delivered, we advised that securing long-term outcomes will be a challenge. On-going and sustainable funding to ensure the persistence of koalas and monitoring to track progress is uncertain.
- Research on changing fire regimes in coastal NSW forests also suggests the area is at risk of increasing temperatures and variability in rainfall with associated increases in drought and fire. This puts the local koala population at high risk regardless of any improved management gains at the local scale.
- We advised the NSW Government allocate sufficient funding to effectively deliver the plan of management for the reserves. This action will support the Government’s policy to double koala numbers by 2050.
- We also suggested the NSW Government consider expanding the existing joint-management arrangements for the reserves from nearby parks or transferring ownership to the Gulaga and Biamanga boards of management.
See the Environmental Trust's response to our recommendations below.