NSW STORIES

Weeds threaten koala habitat in Moree

Weeds are nature’s pests, as any keen gardener will tell you. And for koalas, nasty weeds can change a healthy habitat site with trees to climb into a place that threatens their existence.

In Moree, particularly threatening weeds such as Tiger Pear, Mimosa and African Box Thorn have taken hold on areas of privately-owned land. The problem is that these weeds can cluster around the base of trees and prevent koalas from climbing them to reach fresh leaves. Tiger pear, a cactus that it notoriously difficult to control, is also a well-known cause of koala injuries.

The Northern Slopes Landcare Association has taken this problem by the roots, setting up a community engagement day in late 2019 targeting landholders where koalas have been found and where weeds are threatening the animals’ survival.

It was a time of discovery for many landowners, who learnt about chemical and biological weed control and other ways to improve koala habitat on their land. They learnt to identify the particular weeds that cause widespread problems through koala habitat.

Weeds were also tackled through controlled spraying on private land, with contractors targeting several properties, working around finding ideal weather conditions.

Landholders were keen to learn more about enhancing koala habitats and to be part of a long-term project calling for communication and commitment from all parties.

Ongoing information from council includes advice on the best trees for the Moree region and how to plant them strategically. This aims to enhance space and linkages of koala habitat and hopefully mitigate impacts such as drought and bushfires. A guide to planting koala trees in Moree has been published and is becoming an essential resource for small and large landholders.

The cycle of wet and dry around Moree also adds stress to the population; water can be in critical supply. As part of this project landowners offered to provide trees to install koala drinkers to allow a safe and reliable supply of fresh water. There are now several installed around the Moree area.

Wet conditions are often an advantage to colonies – but rain is also enhances weed growth.

Active, ongoing participation from land care managers and the public will help ensure weeds are kept to a minimum and that koala colonies can grow and thrive. Already, koalas are being sighted in areas that have received weed control treatment.

A private landholder in Warialda has created his own koala sanctuary with council support, planting trees and installing water drinkers. Council reports that a colony has adopted the new habitat and are thriving.

Moree council reports that the project is completed with residual funds still available for follow up work if required – and fortunately, last summer’s bushfires had a minimal impact on koala habitat around Moree.

The Department of Planning, Industry and Environment provided Northern Slopes Landcare Association $30,000 under the NSW Koala Strategy to support this community communication activity.

“ A private landholder in Warialda has created his own koala sanctuary with council support, planting trees and installing water drinkers. Council reports that a colony has adopted the new habitat and are thriving.”