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SKAT (Strzelecki Koala Action Team) June 2024 Updates

Despite lack of funding, it has been a very busy couple of months for SKAT. Recent visits to the Strzelecki Ranges, reveal that up to 16,000 hectares of hardwood is currently being converted to pine plantations in the Strzelecki Ranges. On top of that the State Government and Hancock Victorian Plantations (HVP) are currently targeting 14,000 hectares of farmland in the Gippsland region for new pine plantations. What this means is that HVP will see their pine plantations in the region increase by 30% over the next decade from 65,000 hectares to 95,000 hectares. In the midst of this is one of the most important koala populations remaining in Australia. Native forest may have stopped elsewhere in Victoria, but the full force of the plantation industry is now bearing down on the Strzelecki koala.

Consider a tax deductible donation to SKAT this year.

The above map shows the extent of what is occurring in the Strzelecki Ranges at the present time. Blue indicates existing pine plantations. Red indicates hardwood areas that will be converted to pine plantations over the next decade. The large green area is the Brataualung Forest Park (including Tarra Bulga National Park and Gunyah Gunyah Rainforest Reserve). The green circle represents Morwell National Park, the ancestral source of surviving Strzelecki koalas.

As complicated as the situation is, the Age Newspaper ran a page 2 and 3 feature on the Strzelecki Koala on June 19. Initially The Age had contacted FoE in March for a story on the significance of Mullungdung. Instead, The Age photographed a koala from Morwell National Park and interviewed Susie Zent from Friends of Gippsland Bush.

May 2024: Surviving koala after recent clearfelling of failed bluegum plantation near Loy Yang Power Station. Hancock's bluegum plantations are almost exhausted with all being replanted to pine plantations. Hancock's bluegums had a koala population roughly equivalent to populations found in Strzelecki native forests 1 per 10 hectares. Pine plantations will not have anywhere near this type of population, leading to a decrease in the overall available habitat of the Strzelecki koala.

Recent conversion of Shining Gum plantations to radiata pine in the Albert River catchment. These areas were converted from Mountain Ash to Shining Gum in 2000. Alot of koala habitat was removed during that conversion. Shining Gum plantations can also contain koalas but not at numbers seen in bluegum plantations. This means a net loss of koala habitat over the since 2000, with the main damage occurring then.

Another recent image of the Albert River catchment. Spot the koala tree?

The Koalas, a documentary produced by Georgia Wallace-Crabbe and Gregory Miller has made its Victorian debut in June. SKAT spoke at three screenings in Melbourne, Leongatha and Thornbury. Almost 200 people saw the film at these locations. More screenings will be occurring around Victoria soon. Check the website on the image above for more details.

SKAT has also been dismayed with the clearing of hundreds of trees by Vicroads on the Strzelecki Highway near Delburn over the past couple of weeks. Vicroads have been planning an overtaking lane at this location for some time. The roadside vegetation provided a valuable wildlife corridor. Some have argued that the road widening was part of the works for the construction of the Delburn Wind Farm next year. This is incorrect.

SKAT sent in a submission 17/8/21 regarding the Delburn Wind Farm and its impact on koalas. About 8 koalas had been observed in the approximate area of the massive construction site of the wind farm between 2018-2021 (including one in the koala tree in the image above This tree will not be removed during construction and is located in close proximity to the Strzelecki Highway). One of the 8 koalas was hit by a car and another injured during bluegum logging. 8 survey sites had also recorded scats in the area, but none were located near the construction of the wind farm. The Delburn area is considered to have very low koala numbers, with the main 'hotspot' for koalas being about 15km to the east of the construction area.

One of 300 postcards sent by SKAT to Minister Dimopoulos in June regarding the Strzelecki koala and the urgent need to establish a koala reserve at Mullungdung State Forest.

SKAT's next meeting is on August 6th.

Consider a tax deductible donation to SKAT this year.

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