The future of endangered Northern Rivers koalas got a little bit brighter on Friday, when the federal government announced more than $2 million towards saving the dwindling local populations by regenerating habitat and improving connectivity.
The funding follows swiftly on the heels of the announcement last week that NSW, ACT and Qld koalas would be listed as threatened by the federal government, after years of lobbying by wildlife activists.
A key to ensuring a viable breeding population is re-establishing the linkages between isolated koala communities and feed-tree remnants, strengthening the koala gene pool and helping populations to build up resistance against diseases.
The $2,017,000 grant will fund a five-year project in Tweed and Byron shires to regenerate existing koala habitat and create linkages between isolated inland and coastal populations.
There will be 30,000 koala food trees planted, along with 25,000 riparian and rainforest trees and 8000 mixed shrubs and understorey plants, to create 100 hectares of new wildlife corridors, along with the regeneration of 225ha of existing koala habitat.
Funds have also been allocated towards invasive species management, improved bushfire management and community engagement.
Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass was elated at the news.
‘This is fantastic – it couldn’t come at a better time; well, the timing is probably well-calculated,’ she told Echonetdaily on Friday.
‘It is an immediate benefit of federal listing for the koalas of Tweed and Byron shires and a strong signal to local councils up and down the coast that there is federal money to be had and an encouragement to get on with preparing those comprehensive koala plans of management.’
Tweed Shire Council had applied to the federal government for $2,017,000 to link koala habitats and endangered ecological communities in the first round of the government’s Biodiversity Fund.
Mayor of Tweed Councillor Barry Longland expressed his gratitude to local member Justine Elliot for her role in securing the funding.
‘This is a wonderful project that will have a substantial impact and Justine’s support has been crucial,’ Cr Longland said.
Tweed Shire Council’s Biodiversity Program Leader Dr Mark Kingston said, ‘the funds will provide a substantial boost for the implementation of many of the measures necessary to help secure the future of the koala on the Tweed and Byron coasts.’
Two project officers will be employed for the duration of the project while two youths from within the local Indigenous community will be trained in Certificate III Natural Area Restoration and Management.
Tweed Shire councillor Dot Holdom, who chairs the Tweed Coast Koala Advisory Group, said the contribution of private landholders will be key to the project’s success.
‘Lots of time and effort went into the preparation of this application and the council staff who did the work deserve to be recognised,’ said Cr Holdom.
‘This is a great project that will see many people come together with open hearts and minds to achieve something wonderful for our local koala population.’
Richmond MP Justine Elliot said she was ‘proud to be delivering this funding. This is a great opportunity for our koala population.’
‘This project will link core koala habitats, enhance endangered ecological communities, and improve connectivity for native flora and fauna between inland and coastal communities,’ Ms Elliot said.
‘Farmers and other land managers already do a great job through Landcare work and the Biodiversity Fund will build on this work.’