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Koalas in blue gum plantations

Blue gums are a preferred food tree of Koalas, and Koalas in Victoria are increasingly moving into blue gum plantations seeking new habitat areas.

Minimising impacts to Koalas in blue gum plantations

As well as being socially and culturally significant, Koalas are important to Australia’s biodiversity.

Victoria has a relatively high Koala population in comparison to Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, where Koala populations are listed as vulnerable to extinction under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Despite the relative security of Koala populations in Victoria, it is still imperative that the Koala population and the welfare of Koalas is protected.

Blue gums are a preferred food tree of Koalas, and Koalas in Victoria are increasingly moving into blue gum plantations seeking new habitat areas. Timber from blue gum plantations is used domestically and exported throughout the world. The blue gum industry in Victoria operates on private land and is largely conducted by plantation management companies.

An important guide for blue gum plantation owners and managers

The Minimising impacts to Koalas in blue gum plantations: Regulatory guide provides information to blue gum plantation owners and managers. It covers their regulatory requirements, including the need to minimise impacts to Koalas when undertaking the harvest of blue gums. It outlines who needs an authorisation under the Wildlife Act 1975, the obligations of those persons and how to comply. It also describes how the Conservation Regulator will oversee authorisations, compliance and enforcement.

What the law says about Koalas in Victoria

Koalas, like all wildlife in Victoria, are protected under the Wildlife Act 1975. The welfare of all animals is also protected under the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1988.

These Acts refer to offences for disturbing, harming, possessing or destroying wildlife without the appropriate authority.

Authorisations and Koala Management Plans

The Conservation Regulator requires owners and managers of blue gum plantations who wish to undertake operations that may affect Koalas to apply for an authorisation to disturb Koalas under Section 28A(1A) of the Wildlife Act.

Owners or managers must also develop a Koala Management Plan that meets the minimum requirements set by the Conservation Regulator in order to minimise risks to Koalas during operations.

Applying for an authorisation

To apply for an authorisation to disturb Koalas during plantation management operations, use the relevant application form below. Your application must be accompanied by a Koala Management Plan that uses the template below and is prepared by or in consultation with an ecologist.

A condition of an authorisation to disturb koalas during plantation management operations is that any disturbance must be in accordance with the management approach outlined in the associated Koala Management Plan. A breach of authorisation conditions is an offence under the Wildlife Act and can result in large fines or suspension, cancellation or alterations to the authorisation.

Why is regulation important?

Timber harvesting and management of regrowth in blue gum plantations have the potential to injure, displace or kill Koalas.

The legislative and regulatory framework aims to minimise the disturbance to Koalas and protect Koala welfare.

Plantation owners and managers must collect data via an interactive application, ProofSafe. ProofSafe enables real time data upload and access by the authorisation holder and the Conservation Regulator.

This data is used to calculate the Koala Index. The Koala Index provides an indication of the effectiveness of a plantation company’s management measures to identify and protect Koalas across operations. More information about the Koala Index is provided in the Minimising impacts to Koalas in blue gum plantations: Regulatory guide.

In general, a Koala Index of zero or greater indicates that the management measures being implemented are at a level that is equal to or better than the industry average (i.e. management measures are effective in reducing Koala incidents). If a Koala Index is less than zero (i.e. negative), the number of Koala incidents occurring across the blue gum plantation company’s operations is poorer than the industry average.

The industry-wide Koala Index results will be published quarterly to chart Koala welfare outcomes over time.

The first scorecard will be provided here October 2021.

Reviewed 11 June 2021

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