It was fabulous last week to take a tour of the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital with some of our councillors and council staff and hear about the latest koala science.
This area has one of the largest coastal populations of koalas in eastern Australia, estimated at about 2000 animals east of the highway, in addition to those living westward.
The local koala population is held to be of national significance, not only because of the numbers but also because of the remarkable genetic diversity, with several distinct genetic populations in the different parts of our area – which is highly unusual.
The Koala Hospital is the only one of its kind in Australia and is internationally recognised, attracting a large number of Australian and overseas tourists to our area each year.
Based on their data of visitation, the Koala Hospital estimates up to $50 million annually input to the local economy from tourists coming here just to see the hospital and our local free-ranging koalas.
Unfortunately koalas east of the highway are especially under pressure from development, with loss of habitat and threats from traffic, dog attacks, bushfire, forestry and disease due to habitat stress.
Based on trends in other coastal areas the future looks fairly grim, with Australia’s iconic koala suffering the effects of development everywhere.
Our council has now been working for decades with the team at the Koala Hospital, dedicated local residents, developers and the NSW government, to protect the local koala population despite intense development pressure.
The action is on various fronts, with a Biodiversity Strategy nearly completed, and council now in the final stages of a Koala Plan of Management and Koala Recovery Strategy aiming to reverse the koala population decline.
These last two documents will be exhibited soon for comment, but meanwhile please consider visiting the Koala Hospital to see the great work they do there.
These are Cr Intemann’s opinions and not necessarily those of council.