This guidance provides an overview of the attributes in the landscape that support populations of the listed koala (Phascolarctos cinereus). Guidance is also provided on the approaches to surveying for koala habitat and the limitations of these approaches.
Koala are an iconic Australian species that use the landscape in a number of ways throughout their lifecycle. With koala populations in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory now listed as endangered, maintaining and improving the supply of habitat to support the full life cycle of koala is critical for the survival of the species.
This guidance is intended to support the initial desktop review to identify areas in the landscape that may contain habitat and may need to be referred for approval before an action or project can commence.
Habitat for the endangered Koala
Habitat includes land that has attributes that support koala (such as presence of feed trees, connectivity to other habitat, located near to areas with koala populations). Unoccupied habitat may also be considered unless it is highly unlikely that the habitat would be recolonised. Koala occupancy should therefore be assumed if habitat is present or the area is likely to be utilised for koala movement (see a review of Koala habitat assessment criteria and methods for more information).
Koala habitat includes the total set of attributes required by koalas to meet the needs of individual survival and reproduction, and how those resources are arranged in the landscape to maintain viable metapopulation processes (that is, it is landscape context dependent).
Koala habitat will often include:
- forests or woodlands, especially with a higher proportion of feed tree species, and may include remnant or non-remnant vegetation
- roadside and railway vegetation and paddock trees
- safe intervening ground for travelling between trees and patches to forage, shelter and reproduce
- access to vegetated corridors or paddock trees to facilitate movement between patches.
Climate refugia such as drainage lines, riparian zones and patches can also be important attributes as they contribute to a location’s resilience to drying conditions and are likely to provide a cooler refuge during periods of bushfire and heatwaves.
Maps of koala habitat are included in the EPBC Protected Matters Search Tool – a free, interactive online website application that can help you identify the potential for protected matters to occur on or near your project’s site.
Locally important koala tree species can be used as a starting point to determine whether an area is likely to contain koala habitat. The review of Koala habitat assessment criteria and methods includes information on feed trees in different regions, as well as survey methods to assess habitat.
Walking on the ground is how koalas typically travel between trees, so the ground itself forms an essential component of koala habitat, as without the ground, movement between trees would be hindered or impossible.
Koalas, particularly subadult males, are known to disperse across distances of 1 to 3 km or more.
Undertaking surveys for koala by suitably qualified specialist staff can assist in identifying sensitive areas and may help planning and engineering design teams to avoid or mitigate potential impacts.
We strongly encourage proponents to engage qualified specialists to carry out surveys prior to designing their action or submitting a referral.
The survey methods and level of survey effort required in your study area will depend on the size and nature of your action and the availability and quality of information already available. It is important to note that no single survey method is suitable for all situations, and each have their strengths and weaknesses.
You can request a pre-referral meeting in person, via video or over the phone, to discuss your project.
This will help you to ensure that you understand the assessment process and what you will need to provide.
A pre-referral meeting may assist if:
- you are unsure of the assessment and approval process
- you want to know what type of information and support documents you will need to produce as part of your referral
- you want to discuss possible options available for your project that may reduce the potential for significant impacts on a protected matter, for example planning design and timing or investigate opportunities to pursue an outcomes-based approval.
A pre-referral meeting can occur early in your planning process or when you have a draft version of your referral that you would like an assessment officer to consider.
For information on how to work with us to achieve a smoother, faster referral process and to arrange a pre-referral meeting please refer to Summary information to assist with pre-referral meeting - guidance for proponents and consultants.
Otherwise, you can refer your project directly to us via the EPBC Act Business Portal.