The letter written by the general manager of the Tweed Shire Council (3 April), regarding the call by koala expert and leading ecologist Dr Steve Phillips for a moratorium at the Black Rocks sports field, contains an impressive list of council initiatives to save the Tweed Coast koala population from extinction, including koala protection afforded by the Tweed Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPoM).
However, the critical Black Rocks koala source population cell does not fall under the provisions of the CKPoM.
This cell is reliant on an outdated 10-year0old Independent Koala Plan of Management (IKPoM) which does not reflect current koala usage and quality of koala habitat. It is also inconsistent and has not been fully implemented by council.
The first step that council could take in ensuring the survival of the very small and fragile koala population which remains after the recent Pottsville Wetlands fire is to recommend to the environment minister that the Black Rocks by the Sea IKPoM be reviewed and updated.
A very significant second step council could take is to recommend to the environment minister that a moratorium be imposed on the Black Rocks sports field site to allow the koalas in this critical cell to rest and recover to sustainable levels.
The CKPoM is based on the Tweed Coast Koala Habitat Study 2011 (TCKHS) which states that: There are no grounds for complacency and it will only be by effectively managing and recovering the remaining source populations that the whole will be preserved (page 62).
Dr Phillips (who directed the TCKHS) has identified the Black Rocks sports field site and surrounding areas of habitat as the last stronghold from which the Pottsville Wetlands/Black Rocks koala source population can recover.
There is no point in extensive tree plantings if there are no koalas left to take up residence.
The Black Rocks koala source population is critical to the survival of the Tweed Coast koalas as it is located at the junction of three koala corridors from which gene diversity can be dispersed.
The highest priority should therefore be given to koala protection of this cell so that the Tweed Coast koalas as a whole may survive.
David Norris, Pottsville