News State Victoria Koala deaths in plantation ‘a crime’ – environment minister

Koala deaths in plantation ‘a crime’ – environment minister

dead koalas plantation
A koala at the plantation in south-western Victoria. Photo: Facebook/Helen Oakley
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Victoria’s Environment Minister has described the deaths of at least 40 koalas at a blue gum plantation in the state’s south-west as “a crime”, vowing to bring to account those responsible.

Lily D’Ambrosio said she was “angry” about the deaths, adding that she expected many more than 40 animals to die as a result of the incident.

“What I’m … deadly serious about is bringing to account every single person who is responsible for this devastation,” she said.

“It is a crime, it is cruel. And it should not be allowed to be gotten away with.”

Officers from the Department of Environment were at the timber plantation near Cape Bridgewater on Monday.

Portland woman Helen Oakley first raised the alarm with authorities on Wednesday after hiking into the area and finding about 10 dead koalas.

Dozens more koalas were found trapped in two isolated stretches of gum trees on the property.

In an emotional video she posted on Facebook, Ms Oakley said 140 acres of land had been bulldozed and “[they’ve] just killed all of their koalas”.

“Australia should be ashamed of this, and we need help,” she said

Interviewed on ABC Radio Melbourne on Monday morning, Premier Daniel Andrews called the deaths a “terrible outcome” and promised a thorough investigation, noting that killing native wildlife was an offence.

“What’s happened here is wrong. It shouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Mr Andrews said there might have been two logging operations on the property.

“One may well have been in accordance with the rules and the other one not,” he said.

“There may well have been work done by a contractor and then work done beyond that, potentially by a land owner,” he said.

“This is a very bad outcome but we’ve got to have a proper investigation.”

“Let’s establish the facts. And then if there’s punishment to be levied against anybody, if any offences have been committed then that investigation is all about getting to the truth and then taking action on it.”

koalas dead plantation bridgewater
Koala carcasses have also been seen at the plantation. Photo: Facebook/Helen Oakley

NSW vets sent to Victoria to treat injured koalas

The clinical director of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, Cheyne Flanagan, called for “heads to roll” over the plantation deaths.

“The Victorian government has handed over management of koalas in blue gum plantations to the blue gum industry – that just doesn’t compute,” Ms Flanagan said.

“They’ve got to change the legislation and the way all this practice is done.”

The Port Macquarie Koala Hospital has sent three vets to Victoria to assist local teams trying to save the koalas injured at the plantation.

Ms Flanagan said the koala deaths make her “just so angry”.

“It’s not the first time, obviously not in this magnitude, but the issues have been going on with the blue gum plantations for many years,” she said.

“They do have spotters and yes, koalas can be difficult to sight at times, but there are repeated deaths and heads have got to roll over this.”

The deaths were condemned by the Australian Forest Products Association, with chief executive Ross Hampton saying he was “appalled” at what appeared to be a “callous act of animal cruelty”.

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