Legislative Council: Wednesday, May 17, 2023


Koala State Numberplates

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:36): I seek leave to make a brief explanation on the topic of the Labor election promise, specifically that for Koala State plates, before addressing a question to the Attorney-General, representing the Premier.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: The Malinauskas government announced during the 2022 state election that a Koala State plate option for South Australian vehicles would be introduced with an additional cost to car owners of $50 for the purchase of the plates, going towards helping our state's native animals and wildlife rescuers. One such wildlife rescuer is Mish Simpson from Southern Koala and Echidna Rescue, coincidentally the very rescue facility at which the Labor Party chose to make that announcement about the Koala State plates.

Ms Simpson recently contacted my office and explained that her organisation has conducted more rescues or retrievals of koalas so far this year alone than across all the previous three years combined, explaining further that animals entering large, high-speed roadways, such as the Southern Expressway or the South Eastern Freeway, pose not only significant danger to animals but of course to road users. Current measures in place, such as the mesh ladders or concrete bollards, may limit incidences on roadways, but data kept by her rescue organisation indicates that the rate of injuries are increasing and wildlife carers need all the support they can get, and that includes minimising the need for their rescues in the first place.

I understand that she has written to the Malinauskas government, urging them to consider options, including funding from Koala State plates being used to prevent wildlife deaths and injuries on high-speed roadways by erecting effective physical barriers at high-risk locations, a measure that not only fulfills the Malinauskas government promise but improves road safety for road users and could reduce the burden and stress currently being placed on wildlife rescuers and carers. My questions are:

1. How will the money from the sale of the Koala State plates be allocated?

2. Will wildlife care organisations be consulted about this allocation?

3. Will measures that actively make our roads safer for wildlife and so reduce the trauma and burden for our dedicated wildlife carers also be considered?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (14:38): I thank the honourable member for her questions. This will span a number of portfolios, in particular the Minister for Environment and Water, but also critically the Minister for Transport in relation to the collection of fees from numberplates and the actual infrastructure on roads.

I know that in very recent times I have had an email from an Aboriginal person living in Adelaide who contacted my office to talk about very similar issues, the incidence of koalas dying as a result of roads and how important koalas and other native animals are in Aboriginal culture. It is something that in recent times my office has been alerted to, but I will certainly seek some answers over a number of portfolios in relation to Koala State plates, how those funds might be used, in particular how those funds could be used in prevention mechanisms, as the member has outlined, and what consultation there will be in deciding on the distribution of funds. I am happy to take those away to the other ministers responsible and bring back a reply for the honourable member.