New Scoring Critical to the Survival of Koala

Koala, Phascolarctos cinereus

After the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus was listed as 'Vulnerable' under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) in May 2014, the Commonwealth Department of the Environment released Referral Guidelines (Dec 2014) to assist proponents decide if a proposed project has the potential to result in a 'significant impact' on the Koala or ‘habitat critical to the survival of the Koala’, and therefore should be referred to the Federal Minister for determination.

The EPBC Act Referral Guidelines

The following is provided in the EPBC Act Referral Guidelines:


  • Contextual information based on the known range and habitat requirements of the Koala and is split into two main zones; coastal areas (>= 800 rainfall per annum) or inland areas (<800mm rainfall per annum). The threats and recovery objectives differ between these two areas.
  • Direct and indirect survey methods to detect Koalas within proposed development sites and the limitation of each method.
NEW Koala Habitat Assessment Tool

The most important part of the referral guidelines is the inclusion of a Koala Habitat Assessment Tool, a simple scoring system for each zone (coastal or inland areas) based on:

  • Condition of habitat and presence of known Koala food trees;

  • A measure of habitat connectivity within the landscape;

  • The presence of key threats to the Koala, and

  • Whether the habitat is important for achieving the stated recovery objectives.

By using the tool, you end up with a score of 0 to 10 with a score greater than or equal to 5 representing habitat critical to the survival of the Koala.

EPBC Act Referrals

An EPBC Act referral is recommended if the proposed development will result in the clearing of ≥ 20 hectares of vegetation with a habitat score of ≥ 8,
but not recommended if the proposed development will result in the clearing ≤ 2 hectares of vegetation with a habitat score of 5.

There is a significant grey area remaining for proposed clearing of vegetation with a habitat score of 5 or greater and will most likely come down to the likely level of risk of impact to the Koala or its habitat.

The Koala Referral Guidelines will require significant effort to establish whether a proposed project is likely have a significant impact on the koala and is likely to include surveys, habitat assessments and inclusion of a suite of mitigation measures.

For projects located within south east Queensland, the Koala is also listed as Vulnerable under Queensland legislation, which is likely to add an extra layer of complexity to project design and planning.

We are currently advising clients of their project obligations under the Commonwealth and State legislation pertaining to Koala, and should you require assistance with assessing the potential impacts of your project on Koala and associated habitats please contact one of our experienced consultants on 1300 839 325 or email

Relevant link:
EPBC Act Referral Guidelines

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