Nationwide koala count to start in months

·1-min read

A national count of koalas will begin within months, while a recovery plan for the native animal remains incomplete.

Federal environment department official Ilona Stobutzki has confirmed the koala census is on track to begin by July.

An organisation to lead the count has not yet been locked in, but Ms Stobutzki said Environment Minister Sussan Ley would soon be briefed on a potential candidate.

The count has been criticised by environmentalists who say it's a smokescreen, urging Ms Ley to instead overturn development approvals on sites with koala habitat and refuse any future applications.

Department officials have held workshops to design the koala census, which will be done in partnership with states, territories, researchers and community groups.

The $2 million census was announced in November as part of a broader $18 million plan for koala health research, medical support and habitat restoration.

It was first decided in 2012 that koalas needed a recovery plan and it was due five years ago.

Appearing before a Senate committee on Monday, Ms Stobutzki said the department was still working on the plan, indicating it would soon be released for public consultation.

The marsupial's numbers were already declining before the devastating Black Summer bushfires, which killed and injured an estimated 60,000 koalas.

A NSW parliamentary inquiry has since found koalas will lose their habitat and become extinct in the state before 2050 without urgent intervention.