The Sunshine Coast is among the worst in the nation for threatened habitat destruction. Photo: Brett Wortman
The Sunshine Coast is among the worst in the nation for threatened habitat destruction. Photo: Brett Wortman

‘Wake up call’: Report reveals extent of habitat loss

Development on the Sunshine Coast is having a destructive impact on the region's wildlife, according to a report ranking the region among the worst for habitat destruction.

Sunshine Coast Environmental Council liaison Narelle McCarthy hopes two recent environment reports serve as a "wake up call" to future development.

An Australian Conservation Foundation report recently found habitat destruction for urban sprawl was "fast-tracking the extinction crisis".

It said out of 99 cities, the Sunshine Coast was the fourth worst when it came to threatened species' habitat destruction, with worst affected species being the Australasian bitterns, grey-headed flying foxes and koalas.

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The region's vegetation loss was also revealed in the Sunshine Coast Council's 2020 Biodiversity report.

It said 172ha of core habitat areas were lost, but the region's conservation estate increased through land purchases by the council by 3011ha to 57,404ha.

Ms McCarthy said the findings showed the need for sustainable development, with the region's population expected to soar to 500,000 between now and 2041.

"It's not building wall to wall high-rises, but looking at good design, green open space, energy and water efficiencies and not building in erosion and flood prone areas," she said.

SCEC's Narelle McCarthy. Photo: Patrick Woods
SCEC's Narelle McCarthy. Photo: Patrick Woods

At the October 15 general council meeting, after the biodiversity report was presented, Councillor Peter Cox said it showed "the good, the bad and the ugly".

"It's something we all need to take on board and really try to encourage our community to understand the measures and practices we're putting in place," Cr Cox said.

Mayor Mark Jamieson said there was always room for improvement.

He said the council had "responsibly" only set 15 per cent of the region aside for urban development.

"I take great pride in our council and the staff for the great work that's being done," he said.

"When you think we have over 57,000ha of conservation estate, it's significant, and I want to recognise that the land has been purchased through the environmental levy."

Ms McCarthy said while the land acquisitions were a "good news story", overall the region needed to do better.

"In many ways it was a wake up call and call to action in terms of making sure we don't lose anymore vegetation," she said.

"We need to get net gains, the bottom line is we can't go backwards."

"We can't allow further fragmentation of habitat and the wildlife corridors."

Ms McCarthy said a planning scheme review scheduled within the current term of councillors was an opportunity to ensure remaining core habitat areas were protected.

"There has to be an understanding that we can't continue to develop at any cost," she said.

"There are already generous development rights and approvals within the Sunshine Coast through the SEQ Regional Plan.

"The mayor said 15 per cent of the region is within the urban footprint, but that doesn't mean that entire footprint needs to be developed."