Farrer MP Sussan Ley has come under fire over her decision to allow land to be cleared for a mine in koala habitat, which her critics say could impact the already falling population of the iconic animal.
In her role as Environment Minister, Ms Ley this week announced new conditions for a high-profile quarry extension at Port Stephens, north of Newcastle, which would clear 52 hectares of koala habitat.
But she argued the creation of a 74-hectare habitat corridor would support local koala populations and include bushfire buffer zones, and car and dog strike protection.
"The clear finding from the NSW government and the Commonwealth department is that Brandy Hill's expansion, to be staged over the next 25 years, will not rob the area of critical koala habitat," Ms Ley said.
"The 74-hectare koala corridor can however play an important role in nurturing local populations and in delivering a net gain for local koalas by providing better quality habitat than is there at present."
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But a petition has already been launched by the Greens, with Senator Sarah Hanson Young saying she planned to move in Parliament for a moratorium, banning any more destruction of land.
"The decision of the Environment Minister Sussan Ley to allow the destruction of koala habitat in NSW was just devastating. They're destroying koala land because they want to expand a quarry, a mine, at a time when we know koalas are already under threat - suffering because of the bushfires, suffering because of land clearing and their habitat is just disappearing," she said.
"The only ones that will be left are the soft toys or the ones in zoos, it's just not good enough."
The koala controversy came in a week where the federal government's handling of the environment was put on the agenda by the crossbench, with Indi MP Helen Haines critical that major environmental law changes were "rammed through" in September.
"I opposed the bill on the basis that it was rushed, that consultation had not concluded and that the protections recommended by the review's interim report were not included," she said in Parliament.
"If we don't have strong protections, what would happen to heritage towns like Beechworth and Chiltern?
"Could we still keep our alpine resorts pristine by warding off inappropriate development?
"These environments are key to Mansfield, Bright and Myrtleford and to their economies too."