A plan to prevent koalas being wiped out altogether from the Tweed Coast in the next 15-20 years will go on display next month for public comment.
The long-awaited Tweed Coast Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management will go on exhibition in late October for a month following unanimous approval by Tweed shire councillors last week.
A habitat study completed two years ago as part of the management plan revealed the Tweed Coast’s koala population had been halved in the past decade.
Council planners said the extent of the decline means that the remaining koala numbers are now so low (less than 150 animals) that mortalities due to fire, cars and domestic dog attack ‘are no longer sustainable by the population over the long term’.
‘If nothing is done, there is a very real risk koalas could disappear from the Tweed Coast within the next 15 to 20 years,’ planners said in their report to council.
They say the koala population is not viable without intervention to arrest its decline.
The draft plan of management aims to recover the Tweed Coast population of the koala to at least 200-250 koalas over the next three koala generations (15-20 years) and to increase the total area of preferred koala habitat to at least 2,600 hectares in priority areas and linkages.
It also aims to ‘ensure that future development on the Tweed Coast takes place in a manner that encourages the proper conservation and management of natural vegetation that provide habitat for koalas to ensure a permanent free-living population over their present range and reverse the current trend of koala population decline’.
The plan also recognises a number of ‘koala management precincts’ within the southern Tweed Coast koala management area (KMA) used by koalas as habitat or corridors which will be monitored and protected.
The Tweed Coast already has three individual koala plans of management for the Kings Forest subdivision, Koala Beach and the Black Rocks estate.
The koalas around the Black Rocks sports fields, according to one local, have ‘had to endure the threat of unleashed dogs, hooning, motorbikes, shooting, go-cart racing, model aeroplanes crashing in their habitat, alcohol-fuelled commotion’.
Pottsville resident Lyn Dickinson told Echonetdaily that in the past three years, 33 koalas had been sighted in the area but that ‘with only 140 koalas left on the Tweed Coast, there is no room for complacency’.
‘Two Black Rocks koalas (one captured in a tree on the edge of the access road in a breeding area) were euthanased this year, suffering from the stress-related disease Chlamydia. We cannot afford to lose any more,’ Ms Dickinson said.
Friends of the Koala president Lorraine Vass said it was what people were willing to do, that would make a difference.
Ms Vass said it would help for instance if people drove slower through roads in known koala habitat areas such as Clothiers Creek Road ‘which has been disastrous for koalas’.