Mambo Wetlands’ fate still with Department of Planning despite koala strategy

HELPING HAND: The state government has announced a $45 million strategy to stabilise koala numbers.The fate of sensitive koala habitat at Mambo Wetlands in Port Stephens is still in the hands of the NSWDepartment of Planning despitethe government unveilinga $45 million koala strategy last weekend.

Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald said on Monday that the koala strategy would not affect a Department of Planning investigation into buying back the Mambo land under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme.

The koala strategy includes $20 million to buy and permanently preserve sensitive koala habitat across the state.

The government auctioned off six hectares of former Department of Education land adjoining Mambo to developer Paul Unicomb in June 2016 for $250,000, a move which Mr MacDonald later labelled a mistake.

Mr Unicomb last year lodged plans to build a house on part of the Salamander Bay site, but Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Port Stephens Council in February that the Department of Planning would examine buying back the land.

The state koala strategy includes $3 million for a koala sanctuary, hospital and research centre at One Mile Beach and $20 million from the NSW Environmental Trust to buy prime koala habitat.

Port Stephens Labor MP Kate Washington called on the government to use part of the $20 million acquisition fundto buy back the Mambo site.

“You can’t save our local koalas if you’re flogging off their habitat to developers, so I’ll continue urging the premier to fix the government’s mistake and buy back that land before it’s too late,” she said in a media statement.

Meanwhile, Port Stephens mayor Ryan Palmer welcomed the funding announcement for the koala sanctuary at One Mile’s Treescape Holiday Park.

“This is wonderful news for Port Stephens and itskoalas,” he said.

“This sanctuary will not only be a place where local volunteers can care for sick and injuredkoalas;it will also be a research and eco-tourism facility where people from all over the world can come and learn about our uniquekoalapopulation.

“Port Stephens is proud to be home tokoalasand, with one of the last remainingkoala populations on the east coast, it’s our responsibility to protect them. Thiskoalasanctuary is one way that we can do that.

“I want to thank the NSW Government for helping to make this great idea a realityand thank our local volunteers, Port StephensKoalas.

“Without their passion and hard work, this facility would not be possible.”

The state strategy is designed to address a 26 per cent fall in koala numbers in NSW over the past 15 to 20 years.It follows a review into the koala population by NSW Chief Scientist Professor Mary O’Kane in 2016.

The n Koala Foundation estimates koala numbers have fallen to about 80,000 in ,