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Development   /  Georgia Wallace-Crabbe

The Koala Corridor

Sydney’s last Koala colony is being pushed to the brink by massive development and other human factors. Can it survive?

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Impact areas

ENVIRONMENT

HEALTH & WELLBEING

Crew

  • DIRECTOR Gregory Miller (& Georgia Wallace-Crabbe)

  • PRODUCER Georgia Wallace-Crabbe

Synopsis

DURATION: 56 MINUTES

Wild Koalas are on an extinction trajectory. Is it due to a lack of public concern? A lack of political will?

After the catastrophic fires of the summer of 2019/20 the koala has become the poster child for governments claiming environmental credentials, for companies as mascots and for environmental activists concerned about habitat loss.

Sydney has one last healthy koala population, on the South West city fringe between the Nepean and Georges Rivers. Unlike many koala populations, it is it is growing and it is largely chlamydia free. With this advantage, it could help the wider koala population of NSW, so its survival is vital.

The Campbelltown koala population has been growing and looking to expand, but a key koala corridor lies in the path of a massive urban housing development. A major developer has approval for the first stage of the Figtree Hill project at Mt Gilead (1700 houses). Does the developer have a real concern to protect vulnerable ecological communities impacted by its development? We see the survey work being undertaken by ecological consultants on the site and hear about the efforts made to meet current environmental regulations.

Experts in planning, government and science discuss the scale of development planned for South West Sydney and whether it is compatible with the fight to save Sydney’s last koala colony, and the NSW Koala population more generally? We see survey work being undertaken by ecological consultants, wildlife carers rehabilitating injured koalas found on nearby roads, which then are tagged and released, with researchers tracking their movements back in the bush. We also hear from activists and conservationists concerned about the issues.

We look at biodiversity and environment protection regulations and ask if there are adequate safeguards for such endangered species. Meanwhile koalas found on Appin Rd and released back into the bush, make their way across the urban fringe full of hazards like cars and dogs.

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5.51% funded
  • $150,000.00

    FUNDING GOAL
  • $8,266.00

    FUNDS RAISED
  • July 2022

    PROJECT ENDS
  • 56

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Issue Summary

A short summary of the issue the documentary is addressing

After the catastrophic fires of the 2019/20 summer, when 61,000 Koalas are estimated to have perished, the Koala has become the poster child for government to prove its environmental credentials, as corporate mascots and for environmental campaigners concerned about habitat loss. And yet, Koalas are predicted to be extinct in NSW by 2050 without human intervention.

In South West Sydney, as healthy koalas search for tasty eucalyptus leaf or a mate in the bushland fringes of Appin and Campbelltown, dodging traffic on the roads, researchers concerned for their future, track their movements, health and numbers. Architects and planners discuss how new housing developments can be sympathetic to the needs of our iconic endangered species.

The shy Koala is now caught in the crossfire, with its survival dependent on politics, developers and public sentiment.

Impact

What is the impact vision statement of the documentary?

The Koala has long been on a trajectory to extinction; due largely to lack of public concern and political will. It is estimated 61,000 koalas perished in last year's fires. 0nly 1% native vegetation remains west of the Great Dividing Range, so the East Coast Koalas are in the majority.
We have now the urgent task to save the remaining koalas. The little know story of South West Sydney's koalas, a healthy colony which is on the move due to loss of habitat, is brought into the spotlight.

Outcomes

What outcomes does the project hope to achieve from making this documentary?

Outcomes: prompt better koala protection legislation (more effective Koala SEPPs); strengthen state laws protecting koalas and biodiversity generally; and prompt appropriate legislative responses to the above. Stimulate debate about the protection of endangered species within the arenas of the general public, government policy and the media.

As young people were so successfully mobilised on the issue of Climate Change, the Adani mine issue and by Greta Thunberg's School Strike for Climate, we think they can become a force for protection of threatened species.

Activities

How will this documentary achieve its outcomes?

If it reaches a wide audience and alerts the general public as to the major threats to the Koala's survival, which are, as well as bushfire, land-clearing of koala habitat, road kill, and dog attack. Good outcomes: increased public support for wildlife corridors, underpasses, tree planting programs and funding of koala rehabilitation programs, better planning laws and more koala friendly design in housing development. Ideally environment protection laws, concepts like Bio-banking, and environmental offsets all have to be reviewed and improved so they serve the wildlife they are intended to protect. This could be at a constitutional level or at least at a state government level. The 6th Mass Extinction calls for urgent action to preserve many species.
These goals are ambitious but if film can start new conversations around the issue and bring new supporters to the cause it will be great.

Stakeholders

How will partnerships with this project help inform the project development?

We are consulting with community level groups and environmental NGOs (Nature Conservation Council, National Parks Association, Total Environment Centre, Bob Brown Foundation, Sutherland Shire Environment Group, Georges River Environmental Alliance, Save Sydney Koalas, and local residents groups in Campbelltown, Appin and Sutherland shires), with the support of WIRES re animal rescue, and have a number of higher level environmental consultants (names are confidential) advising.
We will be guided by scientists and researchers whose expertise in scientific methods and data gathering is peer reviewed and by ecologists who area advising on both sides of the debate.

Audience Engagement and Social Impact

What actions does this project hope for its viewers after seeing this film?

Lobby local and state government to maintain and develop wildlife corridors on the city fringe.
Prompt community members to: 1) volunteer for wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, 2) donate to scientific research projects about the range, diversity and behaviour of local koala populations in their area, 3) Talk to their local school, church group, environmental action group, 4) Join WIRES or another wildlife rescue group, 5) encourage their children to study biology or environmental science, and /or 6) donate to the impact campaign for the film, and help the impact release campaign by organising a screening, talk or other event in your area.

Measurement and Evaluation

What is the projects indicators for success?

Increased mainstream media coverage of the issue of habitat protection as a key factor in mitigating the effects of climate change. More sophisticated understanding of the status of endangered native animals in the face of increasingly severe heat and drought, and the important role trees play in the environment for the comfort of humans and animals. An indicator for success would be measured by the number of impact screenings, the take-up by schools and educational institutions of the educational materials, and the general viewer numbers on multiple platforms. Raise the issue of habitat loss in relation to endangered species to international attention of more global NGOs and agencies. Koalas are already on the radar with World Wide Fund for Nature and Nature Conservation Council.