The North Coast’s koala populations have been recognised as areas ‘of particular concern’ by the State Government.

The comment came as a $1.23 million Koala Recovery Plan was officially launched by Deputy Premier and Minister for the Environment and Climate Change Carmel Tebbutt.

The five-year plan aims to co-ordinate koala management across the State and help communities deal with risks to their local koala populations.

“NSW is the first State in Australia to have a recovery plan for koalas,” Ms Tebbutt said.

“This plan is designed to pull all of the community’s resources together to help reduce the decline of koalas in NSW and ensure their long-term survival.

“There are a number of factors that impact koalas, including urban sprawl, and that’s why we are putting this plan in place.”

Ms Tebbutt said the first Statewide survey of koalas in 20 years was recently completed by the Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC) and found mixed results for populations around the State, with an overall decline since 1986.

“Of particular concern are the populations on the North Coast – an area which once boasted large numbers of koalas,” she said.

“The Iluka population became extinct in the 1990s and the population on the Tomago Sandbeds of Port Stephens is now threatened by the combined impact of dogs and fires.

“The Recovery Plan sets out a number of steps to preserve dwindling populations and rebuild populations at risk.

“This includes rehabilitating and revegetating important koala habitats, and developing a system to overcome the common threats of dogs and fires.

“The good news is we have evidence of success stories where koala populations have been saved by communities working together.

“In Gunnedah, where the population has grown in recent years, a project is currently under way to radio-track koalas to determine how far they travel and to which areas.

“Once this is done, the Department and the community can identify the best areas to plant food trees and find ways to protect koalas from the threats they face on the ground.”

Ms Tebbutt said this approach based on community participation and local knowledge had already worked well, with locals planting trees on private property and the Government working to maintain wildlife corridors in nature reserves and State parks.

“What this survey demonstrates is that we need to do more to protect koalas in NSW,” Ms Tebbutt said.

“This plan is a sensible way forward to address the issues they face.”

PICTURE: Ashley is the second koala to be released with a radio tracking collar. He is part of a radio tracking study involving Friends of the Koala, Lismore City Council and Southern Cross University.