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Byron Shire
April 19, 2021

Pottsville mourns koala loss

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David Norris, Pottsville

My gratitude goes to the RFS volunteers who saved Pottsville homes from fire devastation on Christmas Day. However, where are the community condolences for the 50-60 per cent loss of koalas as a result of this fire? Not to mention the loss of koala habitat, which will take years to recover?

It has been suggested that the Black Rocks sports field, if left unrevegetated, would provide an effective firebreak. The Pottsville residential footprint parallels the Tweed Coast koala corridor. Fortunately for the Black Rocks by the Sea section of this footprint, there is a 30-metre wide firebreak between the bushland and residences in accordance with strict fire regulations subsequent to the Victorian Black Saturday bushfires. The Black Rocks sports field cannot provide an effective firebreak as there is a 300-metre strip of primary koala habitat between it and the existing bushfire protection zone.

There is no intention to take away a community asset by planting out the Black Rocks sports field with trees. The intention is to do whatever it takes to ensure that the Tweed Coast koalas (also a community asset) are not added to the list of extinct species as a result of inappropriate planning and development decisions.

According to koala expert Dr Steve Phillips, the Black Rocks/Pottsville Wetlands source koala population (which was estimated at 35 in 2011) has probably been halved by the recent bush fire. The community has to decide which is more important – a viable koala population into the future or limited human use of 4ha of green open space in an isolated location.

The Black Rocks residential community is surrounded by extensive walking and bicycle paths, with easy access to pocket parks, Mooball Creek and the beach. Surely 4ha of a poor previous planning decision can be forfeited so that our koalas have a chance of survival, especially considering that there are already three other sports fields which are centrally-located and easily-accessible in Pottsville.

With so much stress and habitat loss associated with the bush fire, the surviving koalas will most likely seek food and refuge at the fire-unaffected core koala habitat surrounding the Black Rocks sports field and access road. It is therefore more important than ever that this area be protected from the ongoing koala-impactive activities by locking the koala/dog-proof vehicle access gate both day and night and rejection of fire risk developments such as a light industrial men’s shed.

David Norris, Pottsville


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