Toowoomba Regional Council’s (TRC) Planning and Development Committee today (September 14, 2021) recommended supporting the Phase 1 Implementation Plan (2020-2022) of the South East Queensland Koala Conservation Strategy 2020-2025.

TRC Planning and Development Committee chair Cr Megan O’Hara Sullivan said the Department of Environment and Science was seeking local government support for the first phase of the strategy from 2020-2022, which involved limited actions in the Toowoomba Region.

Cr O’Hara Sullivan said the strategy applied to the Toowoomba Urban Extent that was in the boundary of the South East Queensland Regional Plan 2017.

“The state government has mapped almost 9000ha of koala habitat in the Toowoomba Region, which is a small geographic area in South East Queensland,” Cr O’Hara Sullivan said.

“To support protection of this habitat, Council is undertaking work that supports actions in the Plan that are related to planning scheme updates for habitat protection as required by other Queensland legislation to provide increased protection to koala habitat areas in South East Queensland.

“The Plan provides a mechanism to work collaboratively and achieve actions in partnership with the state government.”

TRC Planning and Development Committee portfolio leader Cr Bill Cahill said development applications that proposed interfering with koala habitat in core koala habitat areas outside koala priority areas must be referred to the state assessment and referral agency for assessment.

Cr Cahill said exemptions included clearing a development footprint up to 500m², clearing for firebreaks, maintenance and activities that are considered reasonable to allow landholders to live on and manage their properties.

He said Council primarily offered support as a member of a Department of Environment and Science Local Government Working Group and would further explore how it could work with the state government.

“Due to the Toowoomba Regional Council being only partially in the South East Queensland Regional Plan, it has the smallest area of koala habitat of all the South East Queensland local authorities (1.2% of the total South East Queensland core koala habitat),” Cr Cahill said.

“Council’s own work being undertaken for the preparation of a new Planning Scheme incorporates a study into matters of local environmental significance.

“This will provide us with baseline information on areas supporting habitat corridors and recognises significant areas of biodiversity. It will provide better protection for remnant vegetation.”

The committee recommendation will be considered for adoption at next Tuesday’s (September 21) Ordinary Meeting of Council.