Industry vs. Environment... and Koalas

by JosieM on November 24, 2016 - 3:44pm


An article published by The Guardian, titled Koala’s under siege from policy changes set to destroy habitat, report finds, describes a current environmental resource management issue in New South Whales, Australia (NSW). The article states that the protection of Koalas is failing due to the governments’ commitment to further land clearing and logging, which is ultimately contributing to Koala habitat destruction.  This exemplifies a classic case of industry versus the environment, and the different policy mechanisms used by actors of opposing sides.

Policy Mechanisms Used by Governments

The article demonstrates that the NSW government is focussing more on planning, legislature, and the renewal of agreements to promote the clearing of both public and private land for logging, as opposed to the protection of identified Koala habitat. Regulatory policy mechanisms have been utilized to place the importance of the logging industry above environmental resource management. Regulatory policy instruments are those that are intended to directly change behaviour through laws and regulations, and are most popular for managing access to natural resources and land-use planning.

The NSW government has exercised regulatory policy mechanisms in the signing of Regional Forestry Agreements from 1997 and 2001.  The signing of these agreements allowed logging of native forests for 20 years, and though their expiration is soon approaching (2017), the government has explained that such current policies will be extended. Additionally, a draft NSW legislation set to be introduced to parliament this month aims to weaken the controls around clearing native vegetation on private land. I find these decisions alarming, as between 1990 and 2010, the federal government confirmed a 30% decline in NSW Koala populations, and further reduction of protection regulations will only increase that declination.  I believe that in able to promote a sustainable future, both industrially and environmentally, stronger environmental influences within the government’s decision-making process must be integrated.

Policy Mechanisms Used by Environmental Groups

The article targets the NSW Environmental Protection Authority (EPA), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the National Parks Association (NPA) as the main environmental groups to hold responsibility for taking action against the NSW government’s plan to continue threatening Koala habitat. The goal of these environmental groups is to place the importance of environmental resource management above industry.  The main policy instrument used by such environmental groups to achieve their goals are institutional tools. Institutional tools involve the creation or use of specific agencies to development policy, implement, or provide specific services.  

Environmental institutions including the EPA, WWF, and NPA have conducted research and derived conclusions about the impacts that potential political reforms may have on Koala habitat. For example, according to the WWF, just one of the changes in the reforms may result in 2.2 million hectares of Koala habitat being cleared. I believe it is critical for such institutions to continue their research in attempt to convince decision makers to consider the environmental impacts of their actions before proceeding with regulatory instruments. If the findings from institutional investigation were incorporated more with the decision-making powers of the NSW government, industrial and environmental sustainability would be reached much more effectively.


It is evident that a divide remains between the importance of industry and environmental resource management. Efforts should be made by decision makers to work together with environmental institutions to derive the most sustainable practices possible for industry and environmental resource management. If such actors implemented procedural tools, a sustainable future may be achieved for both industry and the environment. Procedural tools aide in refining the decision-making process with respect to policies and projects, and include a number of perspectives before arriving at a conclusive decision.

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Hi Josie!

I enjoyed reading your article! It is very sad that the populations of Koalas are declining so much and that the activities of the government are contributing so much. But I did have a coupled of follow up questions that I was curious if you could answer. First, you described the environmental groups as needing to place environmental resource management above industry, which I thought was a bit funny because describing an environmental feature as a resource implicitly commodifies it, and suggests that it can be used as a resource. For instance, a small treed area could be described as a timber resource/woodlot likely by industry members who intended to cut down the trees/harvest them for profit. However, it is unlikely that a local environmental group would describe it that way - if they used an anthropocentric description at all, it would probably emphasize the spiritual or cultural value of the forest, and suggest that it could/should not be viewed primarily as a vehicle for economic gain. So, I was wondering why you described the Koalas as a resource? Is the NSW EPA responsible for some Koala tourism initiative that I am unaware of?

Second, I was wondering about your discussion of koalas more generally. They are an unusual species, but part of me thinks that the reason that they get so much attention is because they are charismatic (or cute, in other words). Do you know if they have any key ecological role? Are there other endemic species that share the habitat that are less rare? I have also heard that koalas often die as a result of attacks by dogs, another charismatic species. Is the government taking any action to limit their loss from canine confrontations?