Koalas in the Hastings-Macleay Region
The Hastings-Macleay region is a beautiful area located on the Mid North Coast of NSW. The area is administered by Kempsey Shire Council and Port Macquarie-Hastings Council (both part of the Mid North Coast Joint Organisation).
The area has stunning natural beauty with a diverse range of environments, from the rugged hinterland mountains to the fertile coastal plains and this geographic diversity, together with the fact that the region sits within the Macleay-McPherson overlap, a mixing zone for both sub-tropical and temperate biota, ensures the region supports a high biological diversity.
A large proportion of koala habitat in the Hastings-Macleay region has been mapped as an “Area of Regional Koala Significance” (ARKS) as part of work under the NSW Government’s Saving our Species Program. The Hastings-Macleay ARKS stretches from the small fishing hamlet of Dunbogan in the south to the surfing beaches of Crescent Head in the north, where the rich soils of the coastal floodplain support good populations of koalas. In addition, there is a known high-density koala population near the town of Ellenborough on the Hastings River floodplain. While this mapped ARKS is the core focus of the Koala Recovery Partnership, work outside the mapped area occurs within the two LGAs. Research by the Australian Museum has revealed four genetically different koala populations within this region. Genetic diversity is important to koalas as different populations show different levels of resistance to existing and emerging diseases.
The area around the Lake Innes Peninsula, with its rich red krasnozem soils, has also been recognised by the Federal Government as a “Nationally Significant Source Population” although further survey work is revealing important ‘hotspots’ for koalas in our region which were previously unknown.
The beauty and climate of the Hastings-Macleay Region has ensured its rapid urban growth and development, particularly over the past two decades. Unfortunately, the coastal floodplains, the area most prized for development is traditionally also the best koala habitat. The resultant combination of loss and fragmentation of habitat, and associated threats such as dog attack, road strike and stress-induced disease are now taking their toll on koalas. As a result, this once healthy and robust population is in decline. Strong action is required in the next five years to ensure there is a chance to save this iconic species.