The National Party, which is the coalition’s junior partner, says it will no longer support government legislation due to its opposition to the policy.
But the party’s deputy prime minister, John Barilaro, said: “We are not anti-koalas”.
He said his lawmakers would no longer sit with Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian’s Liberal Party in the state parliament.
This effectively places Ms Berejiklian in a minority government until the situation is resolved. She has yet to comment publicly.
The dispute – dubbed “koala wars” by the Sydney Morning Herald – concerns the government’s environmental planning policy (Sepp), which went into effect last December. It aims to better protect the habitats of koalas.
an investigation has found koalas will be extinct in NSW by 2050 without urgent action. Last summer’s bushfires killed or injured three billion animals nationwide, according to a recent estimate.
But Mr Barilaro argued that the protection policy went too far in imposing onerous conditions on landowners on how they manage their land.
“We think a Sepp like this is sort of a way to clean up regions, attack landowners’ property rights and do nothing to support koalas,” he said. .
He added, “The National Party represents a thriving koala population. We actually want to see the population double. We are not anti-koala. “
But Liberal Party politicians said the measures were necessary and supported by the community. One, Catherine Cusack, said some members of the National Party were “traitors.”
Federal Greens leader Adam Bandt tweeted that the nationals “were blowing up the NSW government because they want rogue landowners to be able to kill more koalas.”
Some conservationists have argued that current policy is not doing enough to protect animals.
Mr Barilaro said ministers would not give up their portfolios, despite the move to the bench.