A Wagga wildlife expert has said the Riverina's isolated koala population could provide "insurance" for future generations after a new report warned the marsupial could go extinct by 2050.
A NSW Parliamentary inquiry into koala populations and habitat has found that the state will lose the native species "without urgent government intervention" due to droughts, bushfire and habitat loss.
The inquiry's report noted that the Riverina was one of "only three koala model regions have little or no areas" in a bushfire ground, along with the Darling Riverine Plains and Far West.
Charles Sturt University Wagga associate professor in wildlife health and pathology, Dr Andrew Peters said Narrandera's koala colony "may in the end be a valuable insurance area against bushfire" but authorities would have to weigh up the "enormous costs".
"We have a very small [Koala] population out at Narrandera and these small, isolated populations need to be intensively managed to prevent inbreeding and the rise of disease," he said.
"As a result, the conservation of the koala is not going to come down to populations in the Riverina, broadly speaking.
"There is one exemption in that there are only a few koala populations in NSW that are not in fire-prone areas, and one of those is the Narrandera population.
"As fire emerges as a greater threat to koalas, it may become more important to have insurance populations with genetic diversity in non-fire prone areas like the western Riverina."
Dr Peters said setting up more habitats in the Riverina would not be enough to offset declining dense Koala population areas close to the coast.
"Even if we were to reintroduce koalas to the Wagga area, like what has happened at Narrandera, the population impact would be pretty minimal as the key driver of the decline would still be there in areas where the majority of the population is," he said.
"That key driver really is habitat loss and fragmentation."
According to the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Narrandera's koala population was itself transplanted from Victoria and Queensland in 1972 and has now grown to more than 200 koalas.
Inquiry chair and Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann stated that "the ongoing destruction of koala habitat through the clearing of land for agriculture, development, mining and forestry has severely impacted most koala populations in the state over many decades".
Dr Peters said those concerns were mainly related to native timber and he doubted if clearing bushfire-damaged softwood plantations in the Snowy Valleys would have much impact.