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Rare insight into our koala habitats

THE coastal strip, where development pressure is the greatest, is home to more than half of the area’s koalas, a report found.

The koala population across the local government area is conservatively estimated at about 2000 animals.

More than half of the koalas live east of the Pacific Highway between the Hastings and Camden Haven rivers.

The largest koala population is around the northern margins of Lake Innes.

A koala habitat and population assessment prepared for Port Macquarie-Hastings Council found the koala population has remained stable since 1949.

“This outcome is a positive one when considered in context of broader state-wide trends of decline in Queensland and NSW that have otherwise resulted in the recent listing of the koala as a vulnerable species in these states by the Commonwealth government,” the report stated.

The animals only occupy 24 per cent of potential habitat which is half of what it should be, the report said.

A population of koalas in the Debenham area west of Ellenborough came as a surprise.

The report noted recent local extinctions of koala populations at King Creek, Laurieton and Bago.

Vegetation mapping and koala habitat and population assessment reports, once adopted, will help guide future planning and policy development.

The council will soon seek public comment on reports prepared by ecological consultants Biolink.

Vegetation mapping found a diversity of vegetation types reflecting a unique combination of geological history, altitude and climate.

Biolink found these factors contributed to the local government area being “an important but invariably understated element of the biodiversity of the north coast bioregion and eastern Australia in general”.

Council’s development and environment director Matt Rogers said it was the most detailed vegetation mapping exercise undertaken to date on the east coast.

“We have a highly diverse and valuable range of vegetation communities across the local government area,” he said. Mr Rogers said our significant koala population was recognised as one of the major populations in the country. The council formally thanked the Koala Preservation Society Australia for its contribution to the mapping work.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital supervisor Cheyne Flanagan said they did not dispute any of the findings.

She said Port Macquarie-Hastings Council should be proud of the work.

Ms Flanagan said although the koala numbers were a little down on what was originally thought, it was still a population of significance.

“We have the biggest population of coastal koalas in Australia and the world,” Ms Flanagan said.

This article is from Port Macquarie News, By Lisa Tisdell