COUNCILS on the Mid-North Coast have united on a three-year project to save koalas.
The Mid North Coast Joint Organisation member councils in Bellingen, Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings, will collaborate with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage and the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital on the Hastings-Macleay Koala Recovery Partnership
The project has been funded by all parties with a particularly large contribution over three years from the NSW government under their Saving Our Species, Iconic Species - Koala funding stream.
Mayor of Kempsey Shire Council and chairperson of the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation, Liz Campbell said koalas have undergone a 26 per cent decline across NSW in recent years, and scientific studies have shown similar declines locally.
"At this rate, localised extinctions could occur within 50 years," Ms Campbell said.
"This is a concern as koalas are ecologically, culturally and economically important to our region, and estimates suggest koalas are worth in excess of $50 million per annum to the local economy.
"This project will deliver a range of on-ground, scientific and community engagement projects that will help to reverse this trend, with all works occurring in accordance with initiatives outlined in the NSW Koala Recovery Strategy,."
One example of the initiatives to be undertaken by the partnership is the Koala Smart program that will be delivered to schools across the Hastings-Macleay.
This program seeks to engage and educate school students about koala conservation using the arts and science.
Key partners in this initiative are the Tacking Point Lions Club and Hello Koalas, with one school being the recipient of a koala sculpture painted in their school uniform in return for undertaking positive koala conservation outcomes.
Another major delivery item for year one of the partnership is to determine accurate population estimates for the study area using state-of-the-art genetic techniques.
"It's going to be a busy three years with lots of exciting projects planned, and we look forward to engaging with all community partners on these initiatives, and providing updates on the progress," added Ms Campbell.
The Hastings-Macleay Koala Recovery Partnership is looking to work with local stakeholders on a range of projects, stakeholders such as universities, community groups and private landholders from Crescent Head to Dunbogan.
To find out more or to register your interest, contact the project's ecologist, Dr Rebecca Montague-Drake on 6581 8639 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.