Research, Connect, Protect



Government, policy & community

Koala Conservation Policy Process: Appraisal and Recommendations

Clark, TW, Mazur, N, Cork, SJ, Dovers, S & Harding, R 1999, Conservation Biology, vol. 14, no. 3, pp. 681-690.

The conservation of koalas depends upon adequate, comprehensive policies that can be easily adapted to suit ‘best practices’ in regions with koala populations. Without an effective decision-making and planning process, koala populations may experience an overall decline. This study critically analyses current processes of developing and implementing koala conservation policies in terms of overall success and functionality.

  Despite a general agreement of the national significance of the koala and potential threats to the species’ survival, there is controversy regarding the success and viability of koala conservation policies. The major policy problems highlighted by this study include: an overall lack of policy specificity; conflicting opinions about the technical detail of data; inadequate mechanisms for dealing with scientific uncertainty; a lack of attention paid to social and economic values as well as the public’s attitude towards koalas and habitat protection, and; no or inadequate mechanisms for policy learning. Overall, these problems make it difficult to develop and implement effective policies that meaningfully protect koalas.

  The authors identify functions of the current decision-making model that will require improvement to enhance the success of policies for koala conservation. Firstly, the intelligence that informs the conservation of koala populations lacks necessary social science perspectives and is often not directly relevant to policy applications.  Secondly, policy promotion and debate are often biased by strong opinions or special interests, often leading to an unhelpful emphasis on community conflict in the media. Third, the prescription of rules, guidelines and sanctions for behaviour is often unclear and lacking in specificity. Fourth, the implementation of conservation policies often leads to outcomes of inconsistent effectiveness, potentially because of a policy being implemented differently than intended by the intelligence, promotion and prescription stages. Finally, policy appraisal processes, if conducted at all, are typically adversarial in nature and focus predominantly on technical concerns with implementation rather than assessing the entire policy process. Finally, ineffective policies are often difficult to terminate.

  The authors suggest a three-part strategy to improve the policy-making process. This involves firstly clearly outlining conservation efforts that have been proven to benefit koala populations based on sound scientific data. Similar efforts should then be implemented widely, however adapted to suit individual. Lastly, opportunities for success should be supported politically and guidelines for ‘best practice’ standards in koala conservation be developed to continue the conservation of the species over the long term.


Summarised by Robyn Boldy


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