A Koala Recovery Partnership is being considered as the first flagship project for the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation of Councils.
When the Mid North Coast JO was announced in May, Bellingen found itself in an alliance with Kempsey and Port Macquarie-Hastings councils that was lacking its nearest neighbours, Coffs Harbour and Nambucca.
In choosing not to join, Coffs and Nambucca cited a lack of common interest with Port Macquarie, as well as a preference for not having two large regional centres 150 kilometres apart in the same JO.
However, the proposed Koala Recovery Partnership with Port Macquarie and Kempsey would be a way to demonstrate the usefulness of the JO, as the koala populations in each of the three local government areas face similar issues and similar recovery strategies have been identified.
Potential benefits presented to Bellingen’s August council meeting included access to additional funding to implement koala strategies and management plans; improved relationships with key stakeholders for koala conservation; a ‘novel’ partnership which would receive much positive attention; and greater access to human resources and expert opinion.
Mayor Dominic King said Bellingen would have much to contribute to such a partnership, given the comprehensiveness of its Coastal Area Koala Plan of Management.
Developed by the Office of Environment and Heritage in 2016, the plan identified core koala habitat on property in the shire based on aerial searches for preferred food trees followed by on-ground surveys, and development application processes were then put in place to safeguard the habitat.
“We’re leaders in that field,” Cr King said. “We have the largest Koala Plan of Management of any local government in NSW.”
The report on Bellingen’s Coastal Area Koala Management Strategy that was presented to the August council meeting included a resolution to seek expressions of interest to establish a local Koala Advisory Group.
Cr King said they would be looking for community representatives as well as experts to help oversee the implementation of management activities identified in the strategy.
“It would be great to get a spread,” he said. “Not just all environmentalists. So we do get a balanced view.”
The meeting also resolved to seek expressions of interest from property owners with mapped areas of koala habitat regarding their potential eligibility to register as stewardship sites under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.