A koala rehabilitator is calling on the NSW Premier to "come to the hospital and see how hard it is" after a new deal exempting core rural zones from koala protection policy was announced.
The deal between the NSW Liberal and Nationals means rural land zoned for farming or forestry will not be included in the new Koala State Environmental Planning Policy 2021 and will be part of new codes yet to be developed.
Labor claims the Liberals have "buckled to the demands" of Deputy Premier John Barilaro and colleagues "who threatened to blow up the Coalition" over koala protection policy last year.
Mr Barilaro said the change would reduce red tape for farmers and foresters and "balances the interests of farmers and the protection of koalas and their habitat".
The government says the new policy will provide better koala protections in Sydney, Blue Mountains and the Central Coast.
But Port Stephens Koalas spokesperson Ron Land said those areas aren't where most koala habitats are and exempting rural areas from the policy could have a "catastrophic effect" on remaining koala populations.
"The vast majority live in these forests that would be able to be logged and private land cleared," he said.
"This legislation will seriously hinder material efforts to prevent the extinction of koalas in NSW.
"Do they want to save a species Australia is known for across the world for?"
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Mr Land pointed out the NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee recommended making koalas an endangered species in 2017 - before last year's devastating fires. An Upper House inquiry into koala populations since found that koalas will be extinct in 30 years if urgent action isn't taken.
"One thing the government can and should do is declare koalas in NSW an endangered species," Mr Land said. "When that occurs it triggers a range of other conditions that must be met before you can destroy koala habitat.
"No one will ever know with preciseness how many were lost [in the fires]. One point everyone agrees on is the fatality rate was horrific.
"We need every bit of help we can get from the government.
Port Stephens Koalas runs a wildlife hospital and 24/7 rescue service and Mr Land said habitat loss was the number one issue for them.
"The work we do is a direct result of the loss of koala habitat," Mr Land said. "We pick them up off the side of road dead or stressed because they've lost their habitat.
"I'd like Gladys Berejiklian to come up to the hospital and see how hard it is."