NSW STORIES

Council and community helping koala recovery

In the wake of the summer bushfires, Clarence Valley Council partnered with the NSW Koala Strategy on projects to harness community resources and support habitats and individual koalas.

Council recently formed a Koala Working Group to work with the community on strategic planning around koala conservation.

This group has a depth of council and community knowledge to draw on, along with a longstanding commitment to koala preservation in council planning, development and communications. The council has access to records on koala sightings dating back to the early 50s. This has been put into a report that gives information on historic and current hazards challenging the koala population.

Sadly, 73% of the Clarence Valley’s koala habitat and 70% of the local koala population was lost in the summer fires.

The NSW Koala Strategy is supporting a new organisation, Caring for the Clarence, harnessing the community’s desire to help the cherished remaining koalas. More than 5000 koala food trees have been planted to replace habitat destroyed during the fires.

Locals and authorities combined their know-how to pinpoint areas in need of food trees, with private landholders keen to engage in the project and businesses willing to donate saplings and material.

It has been a healing exercise not just for the koalas but also for the community, who enthusiastically took to tree-planting to help mend their hearts.

There is also a call out for citizen scientists to report koala sightings – the council’s koala register garners information on exact locations of koalas and information about the sighting. It also allows Clarence Valley residents to offer private land or suggest suitable sites for koala relocation.

The council reports that groundwork in community engagement had been laid before the fires. In late 2019 Clarence Valley Council hosted three koala food tree identification training sessions for the public and council staff. It aimed to make koala care top of mind for residents and landholders.

Public attendees were mainly private landowners and enthusiastic volunteers keen to learn more about local tree species and habitats.

They were shown how to identify koala food trees, through the explanation of botanical terms and use of visual aids. They received current knowledge regarding koala sightings, habitat and vegetation mapping, as well as an update on the koala register.

Council staff were given information to help in areas such as planning, surveying, biodiversity and weed control.

As well as the three well-received training sessions council produced and distributed 250 koala food tree identification booklets.

Council is committed to ongoing work to support and rebuild koala colonies

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“Sadly, 73% of the Clarence Valley’s koala habitat and 70% of the local koala population was lost in the summer fires.”