New koala legislation in Queensland
On 7 February 2020 new State legislation came into effect to provide stronger regulation aimed at protecting koala habitat in South East Queensland. Some of the key changes are described here.
Previously mapping identified Koala Assessable Development Areas (KADA) and Priority Koala Assessable Development Areas (PKADA). The new categories are now Koala Priority Areas (KPA) and Koala Habitat Areas (KHA).
KPAs are broad strategic areas where koala populations are at greatest risk of losing their habitat. KPAs (blue hatching in image below) are mapped from Noosa to the NSW border and from the coast across to Toowoomba.
KHAs indicate where that habitat is and are further defined as ‘Core koala habitat area’ (dark green in image below) and ‘Locally refined koala habitat area’ (light green). An amendment to the mapping of a KHA can be sought, but if rejected cannot be appealed.
The Planning Regulation 2017 has now been amended to prohibit development within an area mapped as both KPA and KHA (Schedule 10 Part 10). Some exemptions are available such as transitional provisions if a development application was properly made prior to 7 February 2020.
All development types (building work, operational work, material change of use, reconfiguring a lot) proposed within a KPA but not ‘interfering’ with a KHA will need to be referred to the State for approval. A new code (State Code 25: Development in South East Queensland koala habitat areas) has been introduced under the State Development Assessment Provisions. A guideline document is available.
interfering with koala habitat—
(a) means removing, cutting down, ringbarking, pushing over, poisoning or destroying in any way, including by burning, flooding or draining, native vegetation in a koala habitat area; but
(b) does not include destroying standing vegetation by stock, or lopping a tree.
Two points on the definition above:
- interference is not limited to koala habitat trees, but includes all native vegetation (which would include Acacia species, rainforest species, etc.).
- interference includes direct impacts (e.g. cutting down a tree) but also indirect ones which would result in the loss of a tree over a period of time (e.g. flooding or draining).
The definition for a Non-Juvenile Koala Habitat Tree (NJKHT) is still relevant for offsets.
For koalas in SEQ, the removal of one (1) NJKHT is considered a significant impact. The Queensland Environmental Offsets Policy requires three (3) new koala habitat trees to be established for every NJKHT removed in SEQ. More information can be found in this fact sheet.