TIMBER companies are promising a “zero harm” policy to koalas after graphic images emerged from plantations earlier in the year showing the iconic animal maimed and bloodied from blue gum harvesting.
An industry body has this week introduced a range of measures that include leaving at least five trees around koalas found living in plantations and carrying out extensive surveys before logging.
“As a committee we were appalled that koalas were reportedly being maimed in the harvesting of blue gums,” Green Triangle Regional Plantation Committee member Laurie Hein told The Standard.
The plantation committee has about 30 members — all of whom have signed up to the new guidelines.
Mr Hein said the committee would “put a lot of pressure” on companies that didn’t agree to the measures. “It was essential that we acted and put together an industry policy,” he said.
“What they’re aimed at doing is to ensure that whatever we do in terms of harvesting we have a zero harm policy, which we believe is achievable.”
But Australia’s leading koala campaigner Deborah Tabart was blunt about that claim.
“What they’re putting in place won’t achieve it,” Ms Tabart said.
“The most important thing is to have a native bush corridor between plantations. A koala needs about 10 different species to eat. They don’t use the plantations as a home, they only go there to feed.”
Ms Tabart, Australia Koala Foundation, chief executive said the animal was “on its way to extinction”.
Koalas, which live in colonies, would be less inclined to venture into the plantations if there were belts of native forest between them, she said.
She said a $50,000 study funded by the group in 2008 had predicted that the blue gum harvesting practises would lead to deaths but that neither the industry nor the Victorian government had paid any attention to its recommendations.
She said the koala also needed to be listed by governments as a vulnerable species to trigger better oversight of harvesting.
“What they (the industry) are saying is only part of the problem and part of the solution — it’s not going to fix it,” she said.