Mr ANOULACK CHANTHIVONG (Macquarie Fields) (16:46): I acknowledge our special guests in the gallery, whom have been noted by my colleagues.
I lend my full support to the intention behind this petition, that is, to conserve and preserve the healthy koala population in south-west Sydney.
I thank all the residents who have signed this petition as a way of showing their commitment to our environment and our koala population.
The petition with 13,000 signatures is undoubtedly a significant response to what is a very important issue in our local area.
My electorate of Macquarie Fields is bounded by the lungs of Campbelltown in the Scenic Hills to the west and the lush bushland on the Georges River to the east. As I have said many times in this Parliament, I am a passionate defender of these green spaces, which are increasingly under threat by overdevelopment.
In my recent Stop the Squeeze survey, thousands of people provided feedback on how they feel about development in their area, what they fear about overdevelopment, and how important it is to save our green, open space and maintain our local community's environmental heritage.
My survey is providing valuable insight into how deeply my constituents care about our green, open spaces and our precious wildlife, with specific mention of the local, healthy koalas. People lament the fact that koala habitat is being destroyed. They fear that koalas will no longer exist in the wild and zoos will be the only place to see these incredible animals.
It is no secret that the Campbelltown local government area [LGA], where more than half of my electorate sits, is home to the only disease‑free koala population in the Sydney Basin.
Long-time koala expert Dr Robert Close told ABC Radio last year that the combination of vegetation, Sydney's sandstone and the Cumberland Plain Woodland soils as well as the close proximity to the Georges River have allowed the koala population to survive longer than other colonies.
But urban splatter has a negative impact on their habitat. Koalas are increasingly being spotted in urban environments, getting caught in fences whilst avoiding domestic pets, or tragically lying on the side of the road after being hit by a vehicle.
Just yesterday Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown posted on its Facebook page a story about two koalas being rescued from a fence in Macquarie Fields.
Thankfully the mother and its joey were given the all clear by Sydney Wildlife and WIRES before being released into nearby bushland. Unfortunately, many others are not so lucky.
The green, open spaces in the Scenic Hills and at Hurlstone are under threat from overdevelopment, which will result in irreparable destruction of natural habitat for our koalas.
The best way to protect our koala population is to develop a clear conservation plan for south-west Sydney.
I stand with the residents who signed this petition along with Wollondilly Shire Council to send a strong message that our green spaces and our koala population need protection and it is a worthy cause to be protected for future generations.