Koalas in our backyard
The Ballina Shire Koala Management Strategy 2016 was adopted by Council at its Ordinary Meeting held on 24 March 2016. The Strategy seeks to achieve a self-sustaining long-term koala population in Ballina Shire.
Part 5 of the Strategy incorporates a Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management (CKPoM) for part of the shire in which an important population of koalas has been identified (as defined under the Commonwealth Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act). The CKPoM has been prepared in accordance with State Environmental Planning Policy No. 44, the associated guidelines published by (the former) Department of Urban Affairs and Planning (1995) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (1999) as well as a contemporary understanding of koala ecology and management. The plan also has regard for the approved Recovery Plan for the Koala in NSW (DECC, 2008).
The Strategy, incorporating the CKPoM, has been referred to the Department of Planning and the Environment for consideration under the State Environmental Planning Policy No. 44 – Koala Habitat Protection. Council is seeking endorsement of the CKPoM by the Department.
The role of the CKPoM is to streamline the process for landholders wishing to undertake development or other activities requiring consent on their land, to meet the regulatory and statutory requirements of NSW legislation. The CKPoM streamlines the process by providing a common framework for considering koalas in relation to development. A key aspect of this is defining areas of core koala habitat (see Chapter 5 of the CKPoM).
In addition to the CKPoM, the Ballina Shire Koala Management Strategy identifies areas of preferred koala habitat, establishes an overarching management framework through koala management precincts and identifies actions Council intends to undertake to advance the vision, aims and objectives of the Strategy.
Koalas are listed as a ‘Vulnerable’ species under State and Federal legislation. This is due to continued decline in koala numbers as a result of land clearing, disturbance of their habitat, attack by dogs and fatalities on roads.
Koalas are fussy eaters and prefer only a small number of mainly eucalypt trees. Koalas have complex social structures, living in established home ranges that interconnect. Young animals, especially males, must eventually leave the home range of their mothers, often travelling long distances seeking suitable habitat.
The NSW Office of Environment and Heritage provided funding to Council to prepare a Koala Habitat Study during 2012 and 2013. The Koala Habitat and Population Assessment: Ballina Shire Council LGA was prepared by Biolink Ecological Consultants and was completed in November 2013. A copy of the study can be downloaded here: Ballina Shire Koala Habitat Study - Final Report - Biolink
The study was the first systematic assessment of koala distribution and abundance across the Ballina local government area (LGA). The study is founded in the analysis of historical koala records, a literature review and field work. Consultation with stakeholders including local wildlife groups and landholders also provided important background information for the study.
Significantly, the study indicates that the Bagotville, Meerschaum Vale, Coolgardie, Wardell, Uralba and Lynwood localities combined have a koala population assessed as being of national significance for the purposes of the Commonwealth Government’s Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. The population is described as an important population under the Act because it is a source population for breeding and/or dispersal and it is likely to be an ancestral source population for koalas inhabiting the Lismore LGA and lower parts of the Byron LGA.
As part of the preparation of the habitat study, Council formed a Project Reference Group (PRG). The reference group acted as a discussion forum in relation to the preparation of both the habitat study and the Koala Management Strategy. The PRG included representatives from NSW government agencies, environmental groups, agricultural groups and the university sector.
For more information on the habitat study and Koala Management Strategy, contact Council’s Strategic and Community Facilities Group on telephone 6686 1284.