March 24-30, 2024: Issue 619


Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan To Facilitate Housing 'Enhanced' - March 18 2024 Update

The NSW State Government stated on Monday March 18 2024 it has delivered on its commitment to strengthen protection for koalas while helping deliver much-needed housing in western and south-western Sydney, by enhancing the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan.

The Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan (CPCP) provides up-front biodiversity approvals, removing the need for individual landholders and developers to seek their own biodiversity approval. 

Both the former Coalition Government and the new Labor government state it speeds up planning processes while giving the community certainty about the future of their area.

Under the just announced 'enhanced' plan, the government states $49 million has been committed to deliver the first stage of a new national park in the Gulguer area to provide critical wildlife corridor connections.

A further $31 million will be used to protect and restore small, isolated patches of rare, at-risk native vegetation in areas such as Orchard Hills, that might otherwise degrade over time.

An additional $22 million will be allocated to fast-track the preservation of around 60 ha of critically endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland.

The changes will come into effect over the next 12 months, the statement announces.

The NSW Government states is enhancing protection for Sydney’s only disease-free koala colony by creating a new south-western Sydney koala map, and a requirement to preserve the mapped land.

''These amendments to the Plan strengthen environmental protections while retaining certainty for local residents and allowing business to invest with confidence.'' the statement reads

''The land earmarked for development in the CPCP could provide up to 73,000 new homes, while also protecting native plants and animals and providing green open space for residents. The plan will also help deliver jobs and infrastructure.''

The Government’s enhancements to the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan also include:
  • updating planning controls to clarify that CPCP avoided land, such as koala corridors, should be zoned C2 Environment Conservation Zone (or similar) at the planning proposal stage
  • publishing koala fencing guidelines so landholders, developers and consent authorities are clear on best-practice design and expected locations of koala exclusion fencing
  • providing precinct planning level guidance on protecting native vegetation. This includes the benefits of co-locating green space and parks with existing vegetation to reduce urban heat effects and support more liveable communities
  • committing an additional $2.5 million to deliver the new Caring for Country Strategy, which will enable Aboriginal communities to deliver programs to benefit their communities.
The government stated the improvements to the CPCP are in line with the previous advice and recommendations of the NSW Chief Scientist.

The CPCP paves the way for homes to be built across 4 nominated growth areas and transport corridorsGreater Macarthur, Greater Penrith to Eastern Creek, Western Sydney Aerotropolis and Wilton. The total land certified for development in the CPCP area has not changed.

A koala trying to survive in the Appin precinct. Photo courtesy of Sydney Basin Koala Network.

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment Penny Sharpe said:
'Our enhancements to the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan take real and concrete steps to protect koalas in south-western Sydney, and are funded.

'The Plan also gets the balance right between the urgent need for housing and infrastructure in our growing city and conserving and protecting our native habitat and wildlife.

'These improvements will make a big difference. They’re not just good for nature – they will also provide more green open spaces and cooling across south-western Sydney.

'Improving the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan so it’s fit for purpose is a win-win; it will give certainty to households, business and industry while protecting our iconic koala and the precious biodiversity of the Cumberland Plain.'

Minister for Planning Paul Scully said:
'Improvements to the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan will enable the NSW Government to better work with industry to deliver more housing for western and south-western Sydney while providing better safeguards for our valued biodiversity.

'Western Sydney is the third largest economy in Australia, with one of the most rapidly growing populations. Industry needs certainty to be able to deliver homes and jobs for people to live close to their jobs and family.

'Enhancements to the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan will help address our critical housing shortage and support the delivery of jobs and infrastructure, whilst providing western and south-western Sydney residents with more green, liveable and attractive places to live.'

Previous PON reports:

New Research Shows Koalas In The Sydney Basin Are In Decline: NSW State Government Seeking Feedback On Reviewing The NSW Koala Strategy

New research released by the Sydney Basin Koala Network: State of Koalas in the Sydney Basin, First Annual Assessment shows the area where koalas are found in the Sydney Basin is declining and the areas supporting long standing breeding populations of koalas is also reducing. In the time since koalas were listed as endangered, things have gone from bad to worse with growing threats from development set to push koalas into further decline. The need for protection is becoming ever more urgent.  

The research, conducted by koala ecologists Biolink, compared the extent of occurrence, area of occupancy, and areas of generational persistence of koalas in the Sydney Basin Bioregion from 2021-2023. All measures showed a trend of decline in the Sydney Basin. Important populations in Cessnock and Southern Highlands are of particular concern with generational persistence in Cessnock halving and the area occupied by koalas decreasing significantly in both LGAs between 2021-2023. The only relatively stable koala populations are threatened by impending urban sprawl outwards from Sydney, so they won’t stay stable for long. 

Policy and legal analysis for SBKN by the Environmental Defenders Office concludes that existing measures are not enough to prevent the extinction of koalas in the Sydney Basin by 2050. There are several key steps available to the Government that would immediately halt this decline and protect koalas. These steps are outlined in the SBKN 2024 Policy Recommendations and Sydney Basin Koala Network states it will use these recommendations to benchmark progress in future reports. 

''The NSW government needs to put their foot on the accelerator for Koala protection. The threats are multiplying while effective protections languish. The decline can’t continue and must be reversed; new laws enacted and conservation reserves and migratory corridors protected; and the state’s Koala Strategy made effective.'' Sydney Basin Koala Network stated


Key Scientific Findings (Biolink):
  • Overall, the proportional area where koalas are found in the Sydney Basin has slightly declined and there are fewer areas supporting long-standing breeding populations.
  • The geographic extent (Extent of Occurrence) of koalas across the Sydney Basin has remained relatively stable from 2021 – 2023, though with a slight overall trend towards decline (0.75%). This represents a decrease of 35,857ha.
  • The proportion of this extent which is occupied by koalas (Area of Occupancy) across the Sydney Basin shows a small but significant decline from 12.81% ± 0.18% (2021) to 12.55% ± 0.13% (2023).
  • Areas of Generational Persistence (long standing source populations) across the Sydney Basin are dynamic, though there is an overall decrease in the number of cells of Generational Persistence between the time frames 2021 (n = 141) and 2023 (n = 125).
  • When considering the six Focal Areas, patterns are variable with some areas showing small increases or relative stability e.g. Hawkesbury LGA and Liverpool LGA respectively, while other areas show significant declines e.g. Cessnock LGA and Wingecarribee LGA.
  • The results of this study may be impacted by delays in entering koala sightings records into government databases, though we note that significant decreases in Cessnock occur despite high numbers of records.
Key Legal Findings (EDO): Overall, there has been a lack of specific action by the NSW and Federal governments to implement EDO recommendations during the past 12-month period. In particular:
  • The majority of relevant councils still have no Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (KPoM) in place.
  • Disparities in koala protection remain, with progress towards returning to a single State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) for koalas stalled.
  • The new Labor government has not detailed its plans for environmental reform, including in relation to its commitments around land clearing and biodiversity offsets, and is still preparing its response to the 5-year statutory reviews of the BC Act and Part 5A of the Local Land Services Act 2013 (NSW) (LLS Act).
  • The Commonwealth government continues to work on legislative reform to the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), yet progress is slow and, at this stage, it is still unclear how the reforms will ensure improvements in threatened species conservation, including koalas.
Urgent Policy Reforms Needed (SBKN):

  • Finalise the Koala SEPP Guideline - applying a full list of koala habitat trees to rural and urban land.
  • Add all LGAs in the Sydney Basin with koala sightings to the Koala SEPP i.e. Sutherland Shire, Penrith, and Hills Shire.
  • Give recognised koala corridors legal protection e.g. via relevant SEPP changes, by following Chief Scientist recommendations to protect, restore, and zone appropriately sized corridors as conservation land (C2).
  • Reform the Cumberland Plain Conservation Plan
  • Scrap the Rural Boundary Clearing Code (RBCC) in the Sydney Basin Bioregion, to prevent further fragmentation of koala habitat.
  • Urgently adopt interim controls on koala habitat in Areas of Regional Koala Significance (ARKS) to prevent clearing of koala habitat across public, and private land.
By end of 2024:
  • Fund councils via NSW Koala Strategy to develop Comprehensive Koala Plans of Management (CKPoM) ensuring all councils have a CKPoM in place.
  • Reform the Local Land Services (LLS) Act to end code based clearing and strictly limit allowable activities on koala habitat.
  • Reform the Biodiversity Conservation Act (BCA) and Biodiversity Offsets Scheme (BOS) to strengthen protection for koalas (and other species).
  • Support Wildlife Rescue Groups to enable timely data to be uploaded to Bionet.
  • Incorporate wildlife mitigation measures such as overpasses and underpasses into plans for all new roads and upgrades.
  • Undertake a strategic supply plan to reduce ad-hoc quarry development on koala habitat.
On Thursday March 21 2024 the Sydney Basin Koala Network stated:  · 
''We finally received our long awaited response from the NSW Roads Ministry to our calls to reduce speed limits in Koala vehicle strike hotspots while mitigation measures are put in place. We have been told that current road speed limits on roads like Appin Road and Heathcote Road are "appropriate". We do not think these figures, compiled by the Southwest Sydney Koala Project, are at all "appropriate".

Reviewing the NSW Koala Strategy
Currently the NSW Government want to hear from residents about what more can be done to help koalas. 
The consultation is open until 26 April at