The bulldozing of native bushland has nearly doubled in the North West since laws which protected native vegetation were axed, a new report has found.
The report by wildlife conservation group WWF and the NSW Nature Conservation Council found in the 12 months since the repeal of the state's Native Vegetation Act in 2017, more than 3,000 hectares of koala habitat was destroyed in the North West, Central West and Hunter regions.
This is almost double the 1,600 ha that was destroyed in 2016-17.
Nature Conservation Council CEO Kate Smolski said the past year's destruction equates to more than 61 football fields of koala forest that has been wiped off the map every week in these regions.
"We could only guess the total losses across the whole of the state," she said in a statement.
“The NSW government is responsible for opening the floodgates to the destruction of koala forests and woodlands on a scale we have not seen for more than 20 years.
“This report confirms the devastating spike in deforestation we detected in the Collarenebri-Moree region last year was just the tip of the iceberg and is now widespread. The NSW government must ban the clearing of koala habitat and other sensitive natural areas as a matter of urgency.”
WWF-Australia conservationist Stuart Blanch said the destruction of koala habitat is accelerating in NSW, where there are likely less than 20,000 koalas left in the wild.
“At the current rate, they are on track to be extinct in the state by as early as 2050," he said.
"We have to stop this excessive tree-clearing if we want to keep koalas alive in the wild for future generations.
“The clearing destroyed habitat for 71 threatened species, including koalas. The forests that were bulldozed meant there are now fewer trees to make rain, cool the weather and store carbon.”
“We are calling in on the NSW Government to urgently strengthen the laws to ensure koalas and other threatened native animals are given the protections they need.”