Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change. It is in relation to the growing population of koalas in the south-west of Victoria, and in particular in the Portland region. For some time communities in and around Portland have been drawing my attention to the growth in the koala population in the far south-west of this state and the impact this growth has had on local woodland, especially manna gums.
Manna gums are the preferred food of koalas, along with shining peppermint gum, red gum and swamp gum. In the south-west manna gum woodland is visibly bearing the brunt of koalas’ ever-increasing need for food, with the effects of over-browsing clearly evident on both private property and Crown land. Expanses of manna gum are dead or dying, with flow-on effects for birds and other fauna which inhabit these woodland areas.
The mortality rates of trees show a strong relationship to koala density. A sustainable density is considered to be one koala per hectare. In the manna gum-dominated areas in the far south-west it is believed to be up to nine. Anecdotal evidence suggests it is even higher in some hotspots. The Arthur Rylah Institute has recommended the use of canopy health as an early warning system for the risk of unsustainable browsing pressures on eucalypt forest.
Locals are arguing that this sign is already present. There are precedents for effective action, most recently in the Otways, where koalas have been translocated to reduce stress on woodland and fertility controls introduced, and also in the successful 10-year Mount Eccles program, or even koalas being euthanased where they have become so malnourished that they have been in extreme distress.
The action I seek is for the minister to visit the south-west, to talk to local communities who are experiencing and seeing what is happening and to sit down and work out strategies to finally reach some solution to this traumatic situation.