Friends of the Koala President Lorraine Vass literally jumped for joy today following news that the Lismore City Council Comprehensive Koala Plan of Management for South-east Lismore (KPoM) has been approved after 18 years in the making.
Council received approval yesterday from the NSW Department of Planning. It comes after a comprehensive consultation process that brought together industry stakeholder groups such as the NSW Farmers Association and the Australian Macadamia Society with wildlife carers and environmentalists.
“The push for a Plan of Management goes back to before I even joined Friends of the Koala in 2000,” said an elated Ms Vass.
“It’s been such a long struggle – it’s been very political and has had its fair share of opposition. At one stage during the development of the original Plan even supporters waivered because they felt it had been watered down.”
“There are so many unknowns about the future of koalas – things like the impact of climate change, still on the horizon that we don’t yet fully understand. But having this Plan means we can get on with the job of managing what we’ve got, employing the best practices we can, using the knowledge we have now.”
Ms Vass said the impetus for a Plan of Management began back in 1995 when ecologists Stephen Phillips and John Callaghan from the Australian Koala Foundation undertook a Koala Management Study in the Goonellabah and East Lismore areas. They identified the tree species preferred by koalas and wrote recommendations about how to manage this unique urban population of wildlife.
“This Plan is a real credit to Council’s Ecologist Damian Licari and other Integrated Planning staff. Once the political will finally existed, they put in place excellent procedures and processes that have achieved a really clear and positive outcome,” Ms Vass said.
She’s not the only one who thinks so.
Late last year the KPoM won a Local Government Excellence in the Environment Award from the Local Government and Shires Association. It scored a gong in the Natural Environment Policies, Planning and Decision Making category – largely for the comprehensive and transparent community consultation process that informed the document.
Council is now required to make a few minor amendments to the KPoM before it takes effect. Once this is completed one of the first things Council will do is to advertise for expressions of interest for members of a Koala Advisory Group which will oversee implementation of the management activities identified in the plan.
“We can now really start to manage the future of our koalas,” Ms Vass said.
“This formalisation within local government means the survival of our koala population is now embedded in Lismore’s future.”
News of the Plan’s approval coincides with the release of a new, full-colour glossy brochure Koalas in our backyard on how the community can best care for the koala population, jointly produced by the NSW Government Lismore City Council and Friends of the Koala Inc.
In what has been a series of successes, Friends of the Koala also won the 2013 Australia Day Sustainable Environment Award last Saturday.
“What a week!” Ms Vass said. “It’s all come together so beautifully.”