The Northern Star

Anger as koala food trees get the chop

A MOTHER and baby koala were feeding in a flooded gum tree recently when a contractor came to remove it from a property in Denbos Crescent, East Lismore.

The tree with the two koalas has been left for now, but eight others around it were felled and local residents have been left wondering how the land's owner gained council permission to remove them.

David Newell, a wildlife ecologist who lives on an adjoining property, said he was 'appalled' approval had been given for the removal of all of the trees.

“This is how we celebrate National Koala Day in Lismore. It's an outrage,” Mr Newell said.

“I had spoken to the (Lismore Council's) tree officer and he said the owner claimed no koalas had been seen in the trees in over four years. I see koalas in these trees all the time.”

Mr Newell said the mother had been teaching the baby to feed on the trees and they were heavily browsed upon and covered in scratch marks.

“Lismore doesn't have a biodiversity strategy and it is increasingly apparent we need one. Having worked for Byron Shire I have seen how their assessment process works and it is chalk and cheese with Lismore,” he said.

Mr Newell could see why the landowner wanted to remove some of the trees, which had been over-planted close to a house, but thought three heavily-browsed food trees should have been left until others were established.

“The equivalent number or more trees should have to be replanted with other koala food trees on the block to ensure no net loss,” he said.

“No individual ever thought that the big scrub could be cleared, but collectively we did it. The same small decisions by landholders will help push koalas to extinction in Lismore.”

The Northern Star was unable to contact with the land's owners, but believes they were only required to plant two trees to replace the nine flooded gums removed.

Lismore City Council Parks Co-ordinator Martin Soutar said: “Council does have a role to play in conserving koala habitat. Council assesses trees that may be subject to SEPP 44 legislation that protects koala habitat and is documented in our tree preservation order. These trees were not subject to SEPP 44 legislation.

“In this case, the overriding factor of these trees was the safety of the residents due to structural defects and their orientation to the house.”

The council's tree officer is on leave and other staff were unable to say whether scratch marks or droppings were sighted during the inspection.

How you can help:

If you are interested in improving koala habitat in your area, contact Friends of the Koala and speak to a tree officer who can advise you on the koala food trees that are most appropriate to your space.

In general terms the best trees to plant are tallowwood, swamp mahogany, forest red gum and brushbox.

If you see a sick or injured koala you should call Friends of the Koala's 24-hour rescue line on
6622 1233.

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