Working Together to Save Our Precious Koala

Bellingen Shire community are coming together to protect the local koala population and their precious habitat in the Pine Creek State Forest.

Understandably, most of us are completely preoccupied with the current Covid outbreaks across Australia. In fact, the whole world’s attention has been sharply focused on little more than the pandemic and its ramifications for more than a year.  ‘Human survival’, or rather ‘threat to human survival’, has the ability to coalesce our attention like nothing else can.

However, in our mid north coast hamlet there is another population whose survival is under imminent threat.  Even before the Black Spring bushfires of 2019, koala populations across the mid north coast were declining.

Bellingen Shire community are coming together to protect the local koala population and their precious habitat in the Pine Creek State Forest.

Mark Graham

“Prior the bushfires, industrial logging, coastal development, highway construction, disease and feral predators all synergistically conspired to cause major declines in Koalas and their disappearance and extinction in many landscapes,” says local ecologist Mark Graham.

The 2019 bushfires ravaged swathes of North Coast bushland, destroying koala habitat and decimating key koala populations within the bounds of the Great Koala National Park.   However, the good news is that Bellingen and Coffs Harbour are in the middle of the biggest unburnt expanse of forest in the North of NSW.

“This means that these globally significant forests have become a critically important refuge for species and populations displaced by the fires of Black Spring and Summer. The survival of these species requires the protection of this refuge,” says Mark.

However, the Forestry Corp. is proposing to log 500 hectares of the Pine Creek State Forest adjoining the Bongil Bongil National Park, a region which provides vital corridor for the many Koalas that are known to frequent these beautiful compartments, a fact supported by a study completed in 2012 by the Australian Museum.

A recent meeting organised by the Bellingen Environment Centre drew large crowds of concerned locals from across the Shire, all determined to protect our Koala colony and their Native habitat.  Dr Tim Cadman, Mark Graham and Sean Tuohy from Friends of Kalang spoke about the active work happening at Kalang Headwaters, Newry Forest, Wild Cattle Creek and now Pine Creek Forest to preserve whatever Native Habitat that remains after the loss of 22% of our forests in the Black Summer Fires.

The Resolution of the meeting was to form a combined working group between Coffs Harbour and Bellingen to protect Pine Creek Forest.

Mark, how crucial is the Pine Creek State Forest to the survival of our remaining koalas?

After the decimation of the Port Macquarie Koala population in the fires of Black Spring the Koala population between Coffs Harbour and Bellingen is the largest remaining. This is centred on Bongil Bongil NP and Pine Creek SF. This is a globally significant breeding colony of Koalas with many hundreds of individuals. Animals dispersing from this core area support the entire regional Koala population, supplementing and augmenting populations in nearby landscapes where Koalas are declining (because of industrial logging, fire and development), thereby maintaining the viability of the entire Koala population of the Great Koala National Park.

In your view, how will the logging of this region impact on the numbers and ongoing health of the koala population?

In a dire fashion. Industrial logging causes local extinctions of Koalas. The NSW Government has found this in places such as Clouds Creek SF on the western Dorrigo Plateau. Industrial logging causes extinctions. Industrial logging stops our rivers flowing. Industrial logging turns healthy forests into weedy degraded wastelands filled with lantana. Industrial logging makes fire much much worse. All these factors smash Koalas.

It doesn’t have to be this way. These public forests are worth much more to all unlogged. They are the cornerstone of our tourism industry and they are our life support systems. Enough is enough. We must protect our forests to protect our future and that of our Koalas.

When is the logging scheduled to commence?

Apparently later in 2021.. Keep an eye on https://planportal.fcnsw.net/ watch where the ecocide is proposed.

Is there a way for concerned community members to get involved to protect the local koala population?

Absolutely. There is so much to be done. Visit and enjoy this precious public forest; take your friends, family and visitors (covid safely); write letters; tell your neighbours; let the local members know you love Koalas intact and not killed by industrial logging; attend rallies; join groups of citizen scientists.  You name it there is so much that we can do and that must be done to save our globally significant Koala population. Onwards into the Symbiocene…

 

Do You Want To Get Involved: Local people can get involved by leaving a message on the Bellingen Environment Centre page or calling 0409996423 to have your name added to the contact list.

8 Comments

  • Ruth Holmes says:

    I would love a see the Koalas increase in the Great Koala Park.
    As a child I would see Koalas on the lower reaches of the Dorrigo Mountain, as we travelled this road.
    Not anymore, the understory is now covered in Lantana & other invasive weeds which have moved up the mountain due to climate change & through lack of weed control.
    I don’t know how the Koalas can find & then climb the trees!
    If a fire came to the area they wouldn’t be able to move quickly to another area.

    I urge your supporters to point this out to Bellingen Shire Council (BSC) about the increase of weeds in the Shire. It would be great if your members would work with the B.S.C. Invasive Weeds Officer & Bellinger Landcare to remove these invasive weeds in the proposed Greater Koala Park.

    In Dorrigo the Dorrigo Mountain Top & Dandarrga Landcare groups have used Covid 19 lockdown to their advantage by removing Privet, Honeysuckle & other weeds along creeks on the Plateau to help our native species. Hayfever from flowering Privet in the spring time is also a health issue for the human inhabitants.

    As well as protesting it would be great if your members lead by example & helped clear the Lantana for the welfare of the Koalas.

  • Anne Graham says:

    We moved to the Bellinger Valley in 1999. We live 8km from the town of Bellingen and the road home is mostly through forest . Early on we would sometimes see koalas crossing the road at night , from big old koalas lumbering across to smaller younger ones . It was fabulous to see them . Now, we haven’t seen any for years . There has been clear felling near us . We know koalas have been killed by feral animals while crossing this cleared ground trying to reach feed trees on the other side . Forestry Corp are propped up by taxpayers money in the form of “ grants” and they never make a profit . Why is this industry allowed to be a black hole for taxpayers money ?
    We know most of the trees go to wood chip.
    The ‘ jobs’ argument is spurious as clearing is done with enormous machines . There are many many more jobs in tourism and hospitality and forestry workers would be invaluable in managing the forest for tourism .

  • Janet Hosking says:

    I used to see many Koalas at the Bellingen cemetery but haven’t spotted even 1 in about 12 months. Vey sad!

  • Rod Macpherson says:

    Another action you can take is go to koalapark.org.au and sign the petition and register as a supporter of the Great Koala National Park. We need 20,000 signatures to get the State Government’s attention and provide a safe habitat for the Koala and other native animals.

  • Tiffany Daro says:

    Non Violent Direct Action training is a great way to understand our rights…. Direct Action campaigns to protect native forests use well organised tactics with safety, respect, teamwork and informed decision making at the heart of these historic and inclusive movements.
    Free training tommorrow in Bellingen at the youth hub 9am
    see link below

    https://www.facebook.com/events/166491992037549/?ref=newsfeed

  • Hi Ruth.. The industrial logging being done in our public forests turns them into lantana infested wastelands.. cheers

  • caroline says:

    Heartfelt thanks to all of the wonderful people from Nambucca Heads, Bellingen and Coffs Harbour who are supporting the fight to save our Koalas and Threatened Species. The Coalition Government have today announced the axing of their own program to support Native Animals. The “Saving our Species program is mainly situated in rural areas and this is the worst time to cut funds from this program as well as the loss of the knowledge base and jobs that maintain the economy in rural areas. Please vote wisely in the forthcoming elections for the future of our National Icon the Koala and so many other Species that are threatened with extinction and that includes ourselves, human beings who are orchestrating this destruction all round.

  • Kevin Evans says:

    A lovely article from the amazing Mark Graham who is a local authority on our unique wild places. If you want to help there are many things you can do to support so many shire initiatives that are all working to save Koala. You can sign the petition to force a parliamentary debate here http://WWW.gknp.org

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