This post was originally published on this site

Department of Environment workers were still combing about 10 kilometres of rows of slash pile on the 60 hectare property on Tuesday morning, looking for more dead and injured koalas and the state’s Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio was talking tough, pledging to “throw every penalty” at those responsible.

Loading

Replay

But the farmer, who manages the property on behalf of his father Russell Troeth, said the numbers of dead koalas had been vastly inflated by local activists.

“There may have been one or two koalas killed and I’ll wear the responsibility, but it’s not the big hoo-ha it’s been made out to be,” Keith Troeth told The Age.

The logging of the blue gum plantation, a common land use in the area, was completed in November, Mr Troeth said, with handover documents completed by the forestry contractors indicating there were 72 koalas on the property at the time.

Loading

But he said the family was powerless to stop dozens more animals making their way onto the property in the following months, looking to feed on regrowth leaves.

Well in excess of 100 koalas are believed to have been present when the bulldozers moved in last week to clear the ground ahead of a planned return of the land to pasture. Mr Troeth dismissed claims circulated online that up to 500 koalas had died.

“We made every effort to do it professionally, we made every effort to minimise any fatality,” Mr Troeth said.

He said the online outrage over the incident was affecting him personally.

“I’m not stressed for myself, it’s more that people are using the koalas for their own agenda,” he said.

Ms D’Ambrosio said she was angry and heartbroken over the koala deaths, and promised to bring the full force of the law to bear over the destruction.

“The devastation that has befallen the koalas in this part of Portland is an abysmal act and one that rightly makes me angry, makes me heartbroken and I know that many Victorians are feeling the same way today,” the minister said,

“We will do everything possible to bring the people who are responsible for this to account and to throw every penalty that is available to us at them.

“This can never be repeated.”

Noel Towell is State Political Editor for The Age

Most Viewed in National

Loading