Celebrities are piling pressure on the state government to restore controversial koala habitat protections scrapped as part of a fragile peace deal between the Liberals and the Nationals.

A vote on the revised Koala Habitat Protection State Environmental Planning Policy scheduled for late last week was postponed because the government could not count on the deciding vote of Liberal upper house member Catherine Cusack.

Olivia Newton-John brought along some furry friends to launch her first Koala Blue store in Australia in 1990.
Olivia Newton-John brought along some furry friends to launch her first Koala Blue store in Australia in 1990.

The Sunday Telegraph understands Ms Cusack laments being forced to choose between keeping the Coalition intact and supporting legislation she considers rushed, error-laden and capable of inflicting serious harm on the state's koala population.

The watered down legislation effectively exempts private property from increased protection of koala habitat, even though two-thirds of koalas currently live on private land.

Under the proposed law, farmland and private forestry landholdings will be excluded from a significant expansion of what is considered "highly suitable koala habitat" - increasing 10 tree species to 123.

Rocker Jimmy Barnes wants stronger koala protection laws. Picture: Sam Ruttyn
Rocker Jimmy Barnes wants stronger koala protection laws. Picture: Sam Ruttyn

 

Zookeeper Caroline Elyse with Kevin the Koala. Picture: Tim Hunter
Zookeeper Caroline Elyse with Kevin the Koala. Picture: Tim Hunter

The Nationals won the backdown after arguing the expanded protections would limit farmers' land use and ability to rezone areas for development.

A senior Nationals source told The Sunday Telegraph: "If Gladys doesn't deliver the votes, her leadership will be done."

Former NSW Australian of the Year Jon Dee and his DoSomething charity have launched a petition to reinstate the original koala habitat protections, which has attracted 25,000 signatures in two weeks.

The petition echoes a recent parliamentary report that found the Black Summer bushfires wiped out koala populations in national parks and State Forests and "conserving and restoring koala habitat on private land is crucial to their ongoing survival as a species".

"The NSW National Party are trying to put in place legislation that will massively undermine koalas in NSW," Mr Dee said

"If the upper house passes this bill, it will result in koala deaths and the destruction of huge amounts of koala habitat. Gladys Berejiklian has to pull that bill and tell John Barilaro to leave our koalas alone."

Working class man Jimmy Barnes has joined calls for beefed up koala habitat protection for the sake of future generations.

"What's happening to the koalas right now is disgraceful," Barnes said. "Huge numbers of koalas were killed in the bushfires. But right now, politicians are still giving businesses permission to destroy lots of koala habitat. It makes no sense.

"It's hard to believe this is actually happening. For the sake of our kids and the environment, we have to save every koala that we can. We want our grandchildren to see our beautiful koalas in the wild."

Singer and actress Olivia Newton-John said the state's koalas deserved concerted protection after a quarter of the state's total koala habitat was scorched last summer.

"It broke my heart that so many koalas died in the bushfires," Newton-John said.

"We need to protect every koala and every koala tree. If we don't, koalas could soon become extinct in NSW."


Originally published as Celebs join koala fight as Lib casts doubt on law


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