Populated areas of suburban Sydney have been identified as areas where koalas are likely to live under contentious policies designed to protect the endangered species.
The Koala Habitat Protection policy, which last week threatened to split the government, applies to land within council areas, including Liverpool, Campbelltown, Hornsby, and Newcastle.
Under the policy, developments on land larger than one hectare in the impacted areas would need to clear koala protection hurdles to go ahead.
Farmers and regional landowners have previously spoken out about the contentious State Environmental Planning Policy (known as a SEPP).
Following escalating tensions over the matter within the government, Liberal MPs representing outer suburban Sydney are increasingly concerned about how the planning rules impact voters.
Planning Minister Rob Stokes briefed government Liberal MPs on the policy yesterday, after one backbencher raised the matter in government meetings.
Mr Stokes sought to assure backbenchers about the policy, explaining how it differs to the old rules.
The briefing came ahead of cabinet consideration of the policy, set down for the start of October.
Spatial maps used to identify locations where koalas could live have caused confusion for how the rules apply to suburban areas. Large parts of the Northern Beaches have been identified as locations where councils could look for koalas as part of tighter laws on big developments.
Newcastle CBD and Liverpool also include areas deemed as potential koala habitats.
Confusion about the spatial mapping data caused Mr Stokes to change how the maps applied to the planning rules.
He said blue areas defined in the data “limit areas where councils are allowed to look” for koalas. Mr Stokes stressed that the koala SEPP only applies to land larger than one hectare.
Councils will have the ultimate say as to which of the covered areas are deemed to incur tighter restrictions on big developments.
One Nation Leader Mark Latham joined National party criticism of the maps used in the SEPP yesterday.
“In the hands of a Labor-Greens council it’s a handbrake on development,” Mr Latham said.
PREMIER ORDERS END TO KOALA WAR
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has told government MPs to get back to work after days of infighting over her Deputy Premier‘s leadership.
Nationals sought to present a united front in the coalition party room meeting, despite some backbench concerns about John Barilaro‘s handling of koala protection rules.
There was no move to sack Mr Barilaro as leader yesterday. Despite two upper house Nationals refusing to declare their public support for the Deputy Premier ahead of a two-hour meeting, he had support from the majority of his party.
Despite the party‘s threat to implode the government over koala protection rules, the matter was not raised in the coalition party room meeting on Tuesday.
Ms Berejiklian said coalition MPs needed to “work hard together and move forward”.
The comments come after a public spat between senior Liberal ministers and Mr Barilaro.
Transport Minister Andrew Constance, yesterday stood by his criticism of the Deputy Premier.
“Yes there’s a dispute which
should have been held at the kitchen table but it’s on the front lawn,” he
“But I will never ever walk away from what I’ve said.”
Labor is set to move a motion of no confidence in Mr Barilaro in parliament today, forcing Liberal ministers to publicly declare their support for the Deputy Premier.
Ms Berejiklian said “it goes without saying” that Liberal ministers will support Mr Barilaro.