In reply to the recent Queensland Government response to Koala Expert's Panel report, Wolter Consulting Group wrote to the respective Environment and Planning Ministers with our recommendations to ensure equitable outcomes are achieved in the delivery of Government actions. The Government’s response has direct implications on the development industry and the planning for a growing South-East Queensland region. It requires a collaborative approach between the Environment and Planning departments, land owners and the industry, as well as alignment of koala conservation objectives and implementation procedures among all three tiers of Government.
QLD Government Response
The recommendations of the Expert Panel’s report was accepted in full, or in principle, by the State Government, and their response A new direction for the conservation of koalas in Queensland was released on 4 May 2018. In accepting the Expert Report, the Government has conceded that current Koala protection policy has failed, and a new approach needed to stem their demise.
Their response highlights the need for immediate initiatives to work with the Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning to act on those recommendations and review the planning framework, to ensure that koala habitat in South-East Queensland is protected.
After careful consideration, WCG developed a list of recommendations which we strongly believe balance the intrinsic importance of the koala population, with land ownership rights and growth objectives. These recommendations were submitted to the Honourable Leeanne Enoch – Minister for the Environment and the Great Barrier Reef, and to the Honourable Cameron Dick – Minister for State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning.
WCG recommendations addressed each of the six key Panel recommendations in detail, with selected highlights below;
Strong Planning Policy: - We support the State taking greater responsibility for koala related planning and development management, however do not support the opportunity for double dipping by also allowing Local Government to have a ‘local’ consideration for a notable State interest.
Balanced Regional Planning: - We continue to support the role of the South-East Queensland Regional Plan (ShapingSEQ) in the regulation and implementation to accommodate both, the koala rehabilitation mapping and the plans for our growing economy.
Good Science: - A more thorough and balanced approach in identifying the root cause of the decline in Koala population numbers is required to ensure a robust scientific understanding of the links between development and the decline in the koala population.
A Societal Issue: - The burden of habitat protection should not solely fall on land owners. Koala protection is a community responsibility which requires investment from Government, the community and land owners equally. The Government should provide incentives to land owners to encourage habitat protection rather than solely through regulation.
Existing Rights: - Koala priority areas must acknowledge the established commitments and existing rights of land owners. Strategic rehabilitation corridors need to be recognised as a community benefit at a trunk scale and therefore should be creditable.
Meaningful Protection: - The identification of koala offset areas within the Urban Footprint must be balanced with the loss to employment and living opportunities such that there is no net-loss of the capacity for South-East Queensland to grow and prosper. The existing identification of ‘islands’ and ‘threads’ of habitat threatens the safety of individuals due to pressures of the urban environment.
Consistency and Education: - There must be consistency in the application and implementation of koala policies among all three tiers of Government. Given this is a topic of strong interest to the wider community, it must be made clear to the community that koala mapping is broadly based and that a more realistic assessment can be achieved on a site by site basis with field verified data, so that there are no misunderstandings of what is to be expected during implementation.
Diverse Engagement: - We support the importance of the private sector engagement and involvement for a more balanced approach to future discussions and policy making. WCG will submit a nomination for the Koala Advisory Council to ensure ongoing representation on these important issues.
WCG Position in the Industry
WCG maintains strong working relationships with the State Government through the Departments aligned to our key skillsets of Town Planning, Environment, Surveying, Landscape Architecture and Urban Design.
As experts in these fields, WCG understands that our clients rely on our knowledge of all relevant laws and regulation, and on our ability to be active participants in policy development. Our senior staff are regularly sought out for their contribution to State and Local policy initiatives, and we maintain an active role with industry leading bodies including Property Council, EIANZ, UDIA, QELA and the Planning Institute of Australia.
Throughout the 25-year history of Wolter Consulting Group, we have been active contributors to the planning profession through our industry leading land development consultancy practice.
WCG welcomes their clients to get in touch with us for any further questions or concerns regarding the recent response to Koala Expert Panel Report.
To view the original letters sent by Wolter Consulting Group to the respective Environment and Planning Ministers, please follow the links below.
Letter to Honourable Leeanne Enoch MP
Letter to Honourable Cameron Dick MP