Tweed Mayor Katie Milne, has welcomed a $370,000 commitment from the NSW Government to build a koala holding facility at Pottsville.
But Lismore-based Friends of the Koala have questioned the wisdom of the site’s location and wonder why they weren’t consulted regarding its establishment.
The facility will be established on a 100-hectare site in Pottsville dedicated to koala habitat conservation, which was purchased by the NSW Government last year. It adjoins Tweed Council’s Koala Beach bushland reserve and the Cudgen Nature Reserve.
Cr Milne was joined by Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and Member for Tweed Geoff Provest at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital for the announcement.
A media release said the holding facility will allow researchers to conduct vaccine trials to tackle the disease chlamydia in koalas. Koala food trees will also be planted to provide the koalas’ food requirements.
Koala food needed
But Friends of the Koala president Ros Irwin told Echonetdaily that while she ‘doesn’t have a problem’ with the holding cell concept, she questions whether the site contains enough established koala feed trees to adequately provide for more koalas.
‘Currumbin [hospital] is bursting at the seams with koalas, so they are looking at where they can put koalas for treatment and assessment.
‘If you are going to have a facility to house koalas you have to have food for them – and have it easily accessible.
‘Where they are looking at putting them there’s not much koala feed at the moment and certainly not enough to supply Currumbin,’ Ms Irwin said.
Cr Milne said, however, that the funding was most welcome and would help develop protection programs for koalas from chlamydia.
‘Chlamydia is a dreadful threat to local koala populations and research into this insidious disease and others such as retrovirus is vital to the protection of koalas here and throughout Australia,’ she said.
‘The ability to assist researchers and hasten the full use of a vaccine for chlamydia is vital to the recovery of the Tweed Coast endangered koala population. It will also benefit all of the more than 200 koalas from the Northern Rivers that Currumbin Wildlife Hospital treats each year.’
She said the council was ‘proud to have played a major role in the initiation of this project and welcomes the innovative approach to working across levels of government and even state borders in the interests of good outcomes for koalas.’
‘Although there’s a lot more that needs to be done, especially with land clearing laws, I congratulate the local member [Geoff Provest] and the NSW Government for this step forward towards a healthier future for Tweed Coast koalas,’ she said.
Tweed Shire Council will assist the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary to develop and operate the Pottsville koala sanctuary.
Is it in right spot?
But while welcoming the funding, Ms Irwin said that a koala hospital was desperately needed in the Northern Rivers – and that should be sited in the Lismore LGA.
‘The Tweed Coast has a very small population of koalas and they are under great threat and decreasing,’ she said.
‘Of the koalas from the various LGAs that we’re responsible for, Tweed is a long, long way down from Lismore.
‘As well as Lismore you’ve got Byron Bay, Ballina and Richmond Valley, all of which have koalas that need care and attention.
‘If we were talking about a hospital, the most efficient use in the Northern Rivers would be locating it in the Lismore LGA because that’s about halfway between the two existing hospitals at Port Macquarie and Currumbin,’ Ms Irwin said.
Yesterday’s announcement is a component of the recently announced $45 million NSW Koala Strategy, a long-term strategy to support at-risk populations across the state.