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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Koalas deserve better

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Lismore Council’s 17-year journey to approving a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for South-East Lismore was concluded on Tuesday night.

Crs Clough, Dowell, Ekins, Houston, Smith and Yarnall delivered on their election promise to koala conservationists throughout the local government area and we thank them.

The small-mindedness of Councillor Meineke and Plan opponent Jeff Champion in attacking Friends of the Koala, in particular the latter’s reference to the ‘bleeding heart club’, was uncalled for and hurtful to the 17 or so members and supporters in the gallery.

For the record, Friends of the Koala commenced as a grassroots koala habitat and advocacy group in 1986. The ‘old’ Friends of the Koala (as Jeff refers to them) certainly did work in partnership with landholders to extend koala habitat in several parts of the LGA, and in particular the south-east.

FOK volunteers assisted Prof Peter Baverstock and the Champion family to plant Hazlemount Lane and environs. Field days were held periodically to clean up the Tucki Tucki Nature Reserve.

It wasn’t until 1989 that some members were encouraged by then NPWS ranger, Steve Phillips and his wife Sue to undergo the necessary training for the group to become licensed under the National Parks & Wildlife Act to rescue and rehabilitate koalas. Some members at the time did not agree with this development and left the organisation.

1989 was also the year in which Landcare was established. Friends of the Koala collaborates with numerous Landcare groups across the Northern Rivers. Landcare has not yet reached Tucki – perhaps formation should be encouraged?

It is true, these days Friends of the Koala volunteers don’t carry out the amount of planting they did 20 years ago. We provide planting advice and food trees for landholders because our experience has been that there is more chance of their maintenance if landholders have done the hard work themselves.

Today’s volunteers, the ‘bleeding hearts’, have got over 300 koalas to deal with each year – higher admittances than anywhere else in the state. Their commitment is 24/7. A koala call-out can occur any time of the day or night.

To their credit, the Champion family have brought in or advised Friends of the Koala of numerous koalas requiring attention over the years, indicating their genuine interest in and concern for koalas and one presumes, their respect for the organisation.

Threatening to chop down koala food trees and to stop planting food trees because of a philosophical opposition to a management plan, which will not interfere with the activities of the vast majority of landowners, is a sad indictment on those who make them.

The koalas deserve better.

Lorraine Vass
President, Friends of the Koala Inc

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