Fears held for the future of Redland koalas with Qld govt group policy

A STATE government-appointed conservation group could enact policy changes that would lead to the demise of Redland koalas, says the Koala Action Group.

VULNERABLE: KAG fears koala conservation could be put second to commercial interests if translocation policy is changed.

VULNERABLE: KAG fears koala conservation could be put second to commercial interests if translocation policy is changed.

KAG president Debbie Pointing said the government's Koala Advisory Council's support of changes to policy that could make it easier to translocate koalas risked opening the floodgates for activities that went against koala conservation.

Translocation is currently only allowed for scientific purposes, but new policy will be released with the government's Koala Conservation Strategy later this year.

Ms Pointing was concerned policy changes would increase the risk of translocation being used to facilitate development.

Many Redlands koalas could be deemed at risk from dangers associated with living in urban areas and easier translocation could lead to the demise of koala populations. 

Ms Pointing's comments came after the ABC reported that a translocation project at East Coomera on the Gold Coast had a 42 per cent mortality rate.

University of Queensland researcher Bill Ellis said translocation could be a viable option to aid koala conservation but had been executed poorly in the past.

"We haven't done a good job because we haven't understood what the purpose (of translocation) should be," he said.

"Past translocations have been a (reactive) response to development in (koala habitats)."

In some cases it's been a convenient but inappropriate solution.

Dr Bill Ellis, University of Queensland

Dr Ellis said translocation could be considered as a last resort for koala conservation. 

"We need to think about why we are relocating them (and how this would) increase the viability of koala populations across Queensland," he said.

Ms Pointing said she was worried that areas where koalas would be released would not be safe. 

"These so called safe areas are generally patches of bushland that are surrounded by high speed roads and housing developments so the koalas often find themselves in danger," she said. 

KOALAS: Translocation is currently only permitted for scientific purposes.

KOALAS: Translocation is currently only permitted for scientific purposes.

An Environment Department spokesperson said a policy being prepared would include criteria to determine the most suitable translocation sites based on risk assessment and advice from experts.

"Risk assessments include spread of disease, inability of a koala to cope with relocation, potential impacts on koala genetics, disruption of resident koalas at the relocation site and risks to koalas at the original site," the spokesperson said.

"Importantly, it will ensure rehabilitated koalas are not released back into imminent danger.

"The government will ensure that the translocation policy framework is in the best interests of koalas and is not a measure to facilitate development."

Ms Pointing said the vested economic interests of several Koala Council members was concerning.

"These ... changes of the translocation policy will play directly into the hands of those seeking to gain profits from allowing koala habitat destruction," she said.

Council members include representatives from the development and timber industries as well as environmental advocates and koala experts.

The Environment Department spokesperson said the council's diverse make-up ensured collaboration and communication pathways between these sectors, and members must disclose conflict of interests in all matters under consideration.