Land clearing: Hundreds sign petition to 'save koalas'

A PETITION calling on Ipswich City Council to tighten up its approach to development and 'save Ipswich koalas' has gained 670 signatures in a less than a week. 

The petitioners, led by the Ipswich Ratepayers and Residents Association, call on the council to enforce more strict development guidelines including ensuring qualified ecologists monitor the land clearing.

Yet those on the front line of the issue, Ipswich Koala Protection Society, say Ipswich City Council is among one of the more effective councils in south-east Queensland when it comes to preserving habitats for koalas while encouraging development. 

The volunteer organization, which saves about 180 koalas every year, says clearing land for residential development should be carried out in a way that includes corridors, strips of trees that link to other areas of preserved bushland.

That's something the Ipswich City Council already enforces, although the society agrees there is room for improvement given connectivity is the major issue impacting urban koala populations. 

Ipswich is home to the south-east's largest, healthiest remaining koala population.

The issue of land clearing is most pronounced at Collingwood Park and Bellbird Park where large areas are being developed to make way for new homes. 

Ipswich Koala Protection Society vice president Marilyn Spletter says about 20 years ago most of the calls came from Springfield and Goodna, as well as Collingwood and Bellbird Park.

Right now there are two koalas are in the Ipswich Koala Protection Society's hospital after being rescued from Bellbird Park and Augustine Heights.

"We need to be identifying koala habitat and creating connectivity rather than fighting something that has been zoned and ticked off years ago," Ms Spletter says. 

"We need to work with developers and councils."

She says the koala population at Collingwood Park is considered to be relatively small and protecting areas of bushland west of Ipswich in areas like Ebenezer, Rosewood, Purga and Amberley would be the key to saving local populations. 

"Ipswich City Council has brought a lot of that land under protection and that's what will save koalas," she said.

Within the Ipswich City Council area 27.1% of the total land area, or about 296 km sq, has been set aside as protected green space in conservation, recreation and buffer zones.

In June this year the council signed the first ever Koala Conservation Agreement with Ipswich Koala Protection Society which recognises the two groups' willingness to work together.   

Council Planning and Development chair Andrew Antoniolli said the council takes its role in helping to protect Ipswich's koala population seriously and had been proactive in identifying and protecting conservation areas.  

"Ipswich City Council's strong environmental credentials speak for themselves," Cr Antoniolli said.   

"Council complies with all relevant state and federal legislation when approving developments and imposing conditions upon developers.  

"Where there is a requirement for a licenced spotter/catcher to be in place during clearing, council maintains discoverable reports of this activity."  

Ipswich Mayor Paul Pisasale said he had "every confidence in the work being done to promote sustainability and improve the environment".   

"We are working on many ways to involve the community as it is a joint partnership for our future."  

Want to know more? 

On Saturday Ipswich Koala Protection Society will hold a public information session at SPR Pool and Spa shop, 122 Eagle St Redbank Plains from 10am to 2pm

An orphan koala will be on display and an education trainer will be available to answer questions.   

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