Our core business is conserving koalas and preserving and enhancing their habitat. An important part of this is educating the community about what’s happening that affects koalas, participating in and supporting relevant campaigns and research, and advocating or speaking up for them.
One of the ways we promote understanding and support for koalas in the Northern Rivers is to articulate the concerns of our members and supporters to those who are responsible for implementing government policy or in a position of influence if policy reform or review is needed.
We promote awareness and encourage discussion by bringing issues to the public’s attention through the media and then providing information and advice.
Friends of the Koala’s advocacy work encompasses writing letters and submissions, providing advice by telephone, via the website, in our Treetops newsletter or in writing, issuing media releases, meeting with elected representatives of the three levels of government, addressing local government councils, participating in public meetings and referring enquirers to the most relevant organization.
Advocacy work often involves alliances with other environmentally-focused community groups and we enter into alliances when we assess that it will achieve mutual benefit and greater effectiveness. We’re active in matters ranging from local developments and issues to national policy.
Pacific Highway update – January 2019
At the time of our mid-December Koala Interest Group meeting, 8995 staff and contractors had been through the Zero Harm to Koalas Induction. Staff and contractors had made numerous koala sightings around Sections 8, 9 and 10 and further afield on their way to and from work, including one of what appeared to be a mother with a back young inside the existing fenced area of the Pacific Highway. The predator control program saw a total of six wild dogs and 15 foxes removed from properties around Section 10, and there had been low activity observed on the cameras over the last few months with no additional captures. The program is now complete, so we have asked that it be continued, and the RMS will look at recommencing it in April-June 2019.
Maintenance of the existing local road and construction fencing has been on-going, with weed spraying and checking for breaches. Overhanging branches and vines require ongoing vigilance to prevent koalas accessing the roads. We discussed options that may be more expensive upfront but require less maintenance and may be more effective in the longer term.
Within Sections 10 and 11 known as Portion D, 23,025 metres of permanent fencing had been installed on the construction alignment with 63% completed, 14 culverts installed with five having fauna refuge poles, and one at Laws Point with the complete fauna crossing fit out. Old Bagotville Road fencing will remain until Section 10 mainline construction is completed likely to be towards the end of 2019. A number of wildlife cameras had been operating for over 12 months to see whether animals are travelling around the eastern end of the koala fence using the area between the koala grids, and whether there is movement on or across the road. Over 1000 fauna of 26 species including koalas were detected on the cameras. The camera monitoring finished in December 2018 as it is unlikely to provide any additional useful data. Heavy vehicles are now using the alignment, and if for some reason there is an increase in heavy vehicle usage, it may be that the camera monitoring is recommenced.
The koala habitat revegetation areas are looking good. There are still 20 ha of the 130 ha to be planted post-construction and to date 18,000 plants have been planted, mostly koala food trees. In addition to the 130 ha, another 4,500 koala food trees will be planted in the landscaping areas and to fill gaps between the 130 ha plantings and the landscaping plantings.
Unfortunately, a koala was found dead on the Pacific Highway by a Pacific Complete surveillance officer on the southbound lane near Laws Road, and was provided to us for assessment. It was a female approximately 4 to 5 years of age in good health (score 8/10). Permanent fauna fencing had been installed through this area and all permanent access gates had been secured and tie wired shut. A maintenance access gate close to where the koala was struck had been compromised with the tie wire cut and the gate opened. RMS has now padlocked all the access gates to minimise future breaches of fauna fencing and they have re-checked all the other gates and the koala fence.
If you would like to read the latest report from the RMS click here
Pacific Highway Upgrade – September 2018
It’s been an interesting space in Highway land. Ros Irwin and Maria Matthes attended the 10th Koala Interest Group meeting with RMS, Pacific Complete and Lendlease, as well as working on a number of other issues with both the Highway and local road issues.
Since November 2016, 7410 people have been through the Zero Harm to Koalas Induction. There have been a number of koala sightings by contractors around Sections 8, 9 and 10 and further afield on their way to and from work. This increased awareness and reporting of sightings is important in keeping our koalas safe during the construction period, as well as knowing where they are and being able to check on their health.
While the main focus of the Koala Interest Group is Ballina’s koalas in Section 10 of the W2B Pacific Highway Upgrade, we also give our attention to the koalas in Sections 8 and 9 and other parts of the existing Highway. Unfortunately, with the warmer July and koalas on the move there have been a number of vehicles that have collided with koalas outside the construction area around Coraki, Broadwater and Riley’s Hill, one south of Woodburn near the construction works, as well as in the Lismore, Tweed and Byron Shires. We have been working with RMS and Pacific Complete to increase awareness in particular areas, instal additional signage, investigate breaches to fencing, and measures that can be put in place to reduce risks of vehicle strike on our koalas.
Section 10 of the Upgrade
The predator control program has been continuing with a total of six wild dogs and 15 foxes removed from properties around Section 10. Every animal trapped is one less with access to our koalas and other wildlife.
One of the connectivity structures has been installed in a koala crossing area on Wardell Road. It was important that this structure was in place by the end of July to provide safe passage for koalas on the move. The commitment made to FOK by RMS, Pacific Complete and Lendlease, was achieved. The week following the installation a koala was observed in a tree near one of the openings of the structure. The other structure for Wardell Road will be in place by the end of November. Section 10 is to have 26 connectivity structures once the Highway upgrade is completed. Many of these structures are in place and the installation is underway for most of the remaining ones.
The revegetation areas are starting to look like they will be providing good koala habitat in the future, and the changed maintenance regime seems to be working. There was one area at Laws Point that didn’t have any proposed koala habitat planting which has been of concern to us, as with the habitat that was removed for the Highway, the koalas would need more food trees in the medium to longer term. Following our Koala Interest Group meeting, Ros and I joined the other Koala Interest Group members and other Pacific Complete, and Lend Lease staff in planting around a hundred koala food trees in this area. Some of the plants were propagated by one of the ecologists from some of the favourite koala food trees that were cleared.
Mimi, one of our female koalas with a joey showed up in Wardell recently, just as a reminder for everyone to drive Koala Aware. She has been sighted crossing the roads and has taken to several of the Swamp Mahoganies.
Finally, here’s a night photo taken in August by Maria of Makawee and her joey living 3m-50m from the highway construction site.
Pacific Highway Woolgoolga to Ballina: Update to end March 2018 including Koala Interest Group meeting 8 and on-site inspection on 9 May re connectivity structures in Wardell Road
Ros Irwin and Maria Matthes met with RMS staff in March and again on 9 May to discuss outstanding issues around the maintenance of fences and the revegetation areas, absence of connectivity structures on local roads, and the need for more monitoring. We recently attended Koala Interest Group meeting No 8 and were updated on the progress since our March meeting.
A summary of outcomes are:
- RMS and Pacific Complete have inducted 8158 contractors and staff through the Zero Harm to Koalas program
- A Koala Spotter award was given to a contractor working from Petersons Quarry for a sighting at Broadwater just outside the project boundary. He went beyond his duties to report it to the Project Ecologist and Pacific Complete, and let everyone at his workplace know immediately.
- Predator Control has been slow and is not as successful as we’d have hoped. 31 traps were set across the study area with a total of 3 dogs and 7 foxes caught so far. Autumn breeding season is starting so hopefully some more wild dogs will be caught soon. Nevertheless a significant number of predators have been removed, which is a positive outcome.
- The revegetation areas (110 ha) are starting to look good following trials in weed control at the sites. Some sites have been more successful than others for a variety of reasons.
- The maintenance program for the fauna exclusion fences has commenced with weed control along fences to kill grass, and overhanging branches trimmed.
- Phased Resource Reduction Phase 5 finished at the end of November 2017. We were provided with the final draft of the report for Laws Point (which will be available on the RMS website soon). The Wardell Road report is in preparation. The report for the additional koala survey (as requested by Friends of the Koala to address the gap in monitoring and the need to know where the koalas are and how they are going) is also in preparation.
- Connectivity Structures on Wardell Road were discussed. Of particular concern was the timing of the proposed works. The contractors’ proposed timeline was the beginning of breeding season August-September which would be over 12 months of no connectivity. This delay was due to engineering constraints and traffic and safety management requirements. FOK said this was unacceptable for the koalas, and that these structures needed to be in place by the end of July. Alternative options were discussed and we met on site with the EPA and RMS/Pacific Complete/Lend Lease staff on 9 May to consider those proposals. We were advised that at least one structure will be in place in Wardell Road by the end of July, weather permitting.
If you would like more information please contact Maria Matthes on 0467 855 990 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Pacific Highway Woolgoolga to Ballina: Update on November Koala Interest Group meeting
We and others fought for 12 years against the route for Stage 10, which is what would have been expected of us. Our decision post approval by both the State and Federal governments to be part of the solution has been criticised by some but has paid dividends in being involved in the Koala Interest Group and developing working relationships with the project staff. This has enabled us to monitor what is happening and make suggestions which are listened to and generally taken on board.
FOK has been extremely busy working for Ballina and Richmond Valley’s koalas. This update provides a summary of what we’ve achieved in working with the RMS and Pacific Complete for Ballina’s koalas during the last six months. As said before, we don’t know if all our efforts will be enough, when coupled with on-going Chlamydia and Retrovirus evidenced in the population, but if we can have healthy populations at the end of the construction stage, it will have all been worthwhile.
The alignment construction is moving at a pace that is difficult to comprehend, with a different landscape emerging on a daily basis. What we and the koalas once knew is no more. The tree clearing for the alignment will be completed soon after the RMS Christmas break, most of the cleared vegetation has been mulched, and as a result, the koalas are now in a transition stage of having to adjust to their changed environment.
An RMS community update was delivered to residents in late December to update them on what has happened so far. We’re also attaching the Pacific Complete Minutes of the November Koala Interest Group meeting with the RMS in November so that interested people can see what’s happening, and a link to the RMS December Community update on progress on the Woolgoolga to Ballina route.
The Pacific Complete Minutes of the November meeting demonstrate the complexity of the project and the actions being taken to address the Conditions of Consent for the project.
RMS have also provided a December Community Update which is worth a read.
The story of Azam and Yahzi
The RMS and Pacific Complete ecologists have been working in conjunction with FOK and have identified a number of koalas with clinical signs of disease, and/or potentially exhibiting signs of stress. Some of these koalas have been rescued subsequently, and all but one were euthanased. There remain a few more still to capture, and several we need to keep an eye on. Two of the koalas in close proximity to the project footprint that required particular attention, are known as Azam and Yazhi. Click here to read their stories
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Campaigns by other community organisations
Many other community organisations are doing excellent work to protect koalas and assist their recovery in NSW. We’re a member group of the state-wide Nature Conservation Council of NSW and NSW Wildlife Council, and are also members of the North Coast Environment Council and the North East Forest Alliance.
We support campaigns spearheaded by other organisations such as the following:
National Parks Association of NSW’s Great Koala National Park at koalapark.org.au
Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s Forest Campaign at https://www.nature.org.au/our-campaigns/ending-deforestation/
South East Region Conservation Alliance’s Great Southern [Koala] Forest
Western Woodlands Alliance’s Western Woodlands Koala Park westernwoodlands.weebly.com
Better Planning Network’s Community Charter for Good Planning
Through our membership of the Nature Conservation Council we support the Places You Love campaign to safeguard Australia’s environmental protection laws placesyoulove.org.
Port Stephens Koalas – Anna Bay NSW
Koala Hospital- Port Macquarie NSW
Wildlife Health Australia
Koala Infectious Diseases Research Group (KIDReG)
Australasian Wildlife Genomics group
Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment – UWS
The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project
Science for Wildlife
Land for Wildlife
Sydney Metropolitan Wildlife Service
University of Sydney – Koala Research