New koala reserve to protect Sydney colony

The NSW government has unveiled a draft plan to protect koala populations in Sydney outskirts.
The NSW government has unveiled a draft plan to protect koala populations in Sydney outskirts.

More than 1880 hectares of prime koala habitat in Sydney's west and southwest will be protected under a plan to safeguard one of the state's healthiest koala populations.

The NSW government has unveiled a draft plan to protect critical biodiversity assets and an important koala population in the Campbelltown and Wollondilly area.

Environment Minister Matt Kean says the draft plan includes a new koala reserve to ensure Sydney's chlamydia-free koala population is protected.

"The Georges River Koala Reserve will protect up to 1885 hectares of existing koala habitat and enhance the connectivity of fragmented patches of important habitat, including protecting the important north-south koala corridor so this iconic species can move about safely," he said in a statement on Wednesday.

NSW will spend $84 million in the first five years planting 100,000 trees in the reserve to restore koala habitat and to install 120 kilometres of koala fencing.

The draft plan spans eight local government areas including Blacktown, Fairfield, Liverpool, Campbelltown, Camden, Wollondilly, Hawkesbury and Penrith.

Planning Minister Rob Stokes said under the plan, urban bushland would be prioritised and protected before urban development.

"Too often the environment has been an afterthought in urban planning," he said in a statement.

"This approach secures environmental conservation but with the certainty needed to support the strategic delivery of infrastructure, housing and jobs for western Sydney."

NSW Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who chaired a parliamentary inquiry into koala populations and their habitat, said the draft plan was a good start to ensuring koalas were protected.

However, She flagged concerns over the timeline of its implementation.

"Koalas can't wait that long, so I urge the government to protect the entire 1885 hectares immediately," she said in a statement.

"It's also disappointing that only one of the vital corridors which koalas use between the Georges and Nepean Rivers is included in this reserve."

Conservation group Total Environment Centre says this draft plan is the last chance to protect the remaining koala habitat before it's "engulfed" by urban development.

Director Jeff Angel says it should be completed in the next five years - not by 2040 as is expected under the plan.

"The Macarthur koala colony is the largest recovering colony in NSW; chlamydia free; and expanding north, south and west - of special importance in view of the mega bushfires that burnt the Blue Mountains," he said in a statement.

The draft Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan will be on public exhibition until September 25.

Australian Associated Press