Nats stand strong over ‘extraordinary’ koala issue
FEDERAL and state politicians have come out strongly after the National Party withdrew support for legislation until their demands over koala policy have been achieved.
Speaking at the opening of the Woodburn, Broadwater and Wardell bypass, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis fielded several questions on the issue.
On the issue of koala management, Mr McCormack referenced Ballina Shire Council's koala management plan.
"I can tell you that the Ballina koala plan and the koala management plan for the Pacific Highway were both signed off in July 2016 and August 2016 respectively," he said.
"I appreciate that the NSW Nationals are fighting hard for what they see as onerous laws for farmers, that's what National Party members do, we build better infrastructure … when our regional communities need something, we act."
Mr Gulaptis said that he was prepared to put the interests of his constituents over his title as NSW Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Roads and Infrastructure for the matter.
"That's just a title that hangs on me, it's not why I joined parliament, it's not why I was elected," he said.
"I was elected to represent my community and my community feels they are being targeted unfairly.
"My first priority is to stand up for my community."
Mr Gulaptis labelled it a "misconception" that country people did not care about koalas.
"Farmers are the best custodians of the land," he said.
"They don't wake up one morning and say, 'I am going to down the back paddock, clear three acres of land to get rid of those koalas'.
"In fact if they have koalas on their property they love them and they want to show their kids and their grandkids.
"The fact of the matter is we have got koalas in the country, they haven't got any koalas in the city, they've decimated their koala population."
Nature Conservation Council CEO Chris Gambian labelled the Nationals' position as 'extraordinary'.
"Wanting to retain the right to kill koalas is an extraordinary hill for the Nationals to want to die on, but here we are," the chief executive said.
"The Nationals have dictated environmental policy to the Liberal Party and the whole state for a decade.
"The koala policy is one small measure to ensure koalas don't become extinct in NSW by 2050."