The Great Koala National Park is a step closer after the NSW Premier announced three new advisory panels – for Industry, Community and Aboriginal Advisory – at a media conference in Coffs Harbour earlier this morning.
Today, the NSW Premier Chris Minns joined Minister for the Environment Penny Sharpe and Minister for Agriculture and Regional NSW Tara Moriarty for a tour of Bongil Bongil National Park to see areas that will form part of the Park and meet scientists deploying drones to improve koala counting accuracy.
Wood Central can reveal for the first time who will chair the panels – the Acting Environment and Heritage Coordinator-General for the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
The first round of meetings will occur from 27 November 2023, with “the panel to meet regularly over the next six to 12 months,” according to a notice viewed by the Wood Central publisher.
The panel establishment follows a commitment by the Minns Government to establish the Park and, at the same time, preserve “a sustainable timber industry for mid and northern NSW,” according to Minister Moriarty.
According to Premier Minns, inaction and neglect by the previous government saw the koala listed as an endangered species in NSW.
“Creating a Great Koala National Park will turn around the animal’s grim trajectory,” he said before adding, “The panels will ensure we consult with all stakeholders to create a park that will both protect our native animals and create job, tourism and other economic opportunities.”
The announcement follows an announcement last month which saw the NSW government halt harvesting operations in the 106 koala hubs within the areas assessed for the Park.
Penny Sharpe, the NSW Environmental Minister and the powerbroker behind the push to establish the Park, has described the decision “as the most significant environmental commitment in NSW history” and “essential to save koalas from extinction.”
The Wood Central Publisher was alerted to the announcement overnight and can reveal that the NSW peak body for timber has been invited to participate in the Industry Panel.
Yesterday, invitations were sent to Timber NSW and the North East NSW Regional Forestry Hub to participate in the Industry Panel, with separate invitations sent to Community Representatives and Traditional Owners.
The invitation states that the NSW Government has committed $80 million to “help deliver on its election commitment to create a Great Koala National Park in the Mid North Coast between Kempsey and Coffs Park.”
The Park’s establishment “will be guided by expert scientific advice and informed by a consultation process with all stakeholders, and an independent economic assessment of the proposed park’s impact on local jobs and communities.”
Premier Minns today outlined the process to establish Great Koala National Park, which will include three key components:
- An independent economic and social assessment that will consider the impacts on local jobs and communities
- An expert environmental and cultural heritage assessment to safeguard the unique environmental and cultural heritage of the region and ensure the Park aligns with the highest standards of environmental protection and respect for cultural heritage
- The establishment of industry, community and Aboriginal advisory panels to provide input to the creation of the Park.
In May, Wood Central contributor Gordon Wilson used spatial mapping to survey the proposed Great Koala National Park.
He established that more than 76.5% of the land claimed to be available for harvest is “Protected State Forest” and is not available for harvesting.
“This includes corridors of native forest across state forests that connect to national parks – the stated aim of the current Minister for the Environment for the koala park,” Mr Wilson said
“The objective for the Park already exists and has for 30 years or more.”