With a housing crisis and 2.2 million more people, where will we put our koalas?

Southeast Queensland’s koalas are under increasing pressure as the region grapples with a housing crisis and a forecast population explosion of 2.2 million people.

Sep 14, 2023, updated Sep 14, 2023
More extreme weather caused by climate change will put more pressure on koala populations. Photo: ABC

More extreme weather caused by climate change will put more pressure on koala populations. Photo: ABC

The Queensland Conservation Council (QCC) warns the predicted population boom increases the risk of koala extinction, with the species under intense threat from urban sprawl and greenfield development.

The QCC has analysed the Palaszczuk government’s regional housing blueprint ShapingSEQ, released in August, saying it allows for only the “bare minimum” of koala habitat protection.

The blueprint unlocks the housing supply to allow the construction of 900,000 new homes by 2046.

However, the QCC fears that almost six per cent of bushland will be lost to make way for the 2.2 million extra residents expected to call the region home.

Deputy Premier and State Development Minister Steven Miles said Queensland must plan for the population boom.

“More housing is needed than ever before, and we need a plan that ensures homes are delivered when and where they need to be, while also protecting Queensland’s great lifestyle,” Mr Miles said at the development blueprint launch.

“This plan doesn’t mean growth everywhere – it plans for growth in the suburbs that can cater for growth.”

However, the QCC has spent weeks analysing the blueprint and says it ramps up pressure on the region’s threatened koala population.

“Southeast Queensland is an ecological treasure trove of rainforests, bushland and internationally listed wetlands and iconic species like the koala,” QCC director Dave Copeman said.

“All of that is at risk, with the new ShapingSEQ regional plan opening up more bushland and native habitat to urban sprawl and development.”

If the region’s animals and plants are to have any hope not only to survive but to thrive, at least 40 per cent of the area needs to be covered by native bushland and natural ecosystems, the QCC warns.

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“Currently, southeast Queensland sits at 35 per cent bushland cover,” Mr Copeman said.

“This plan earmarks a further six per cent of SEQ bushland for new housing, putting the region at risk of falling below the globally recognised minimum of 30 per cent bushland cover.”

He said natural disasters and ongoing development threatened the koala habitat.

“Rather than nurturing critical koala habitat, the ShapingSEQ plan could be another series of attacks, putting the species at further risk of extinction,” Mr Copeman said.

“We can’t afford to lose a single hectare if we want to save the species.”

A spokesperson for the deputy premier said the QCC had been consulted before the release of the blueprint in August and supported the plan’s release.

The QCC admitted the government was “moving in the right direction”, but still must do more to ensure koala habitat protection.

The minister has been contacted for comment.

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