REVEALED: Koala habitat reaches new heights
ONE of Ipswich's prime koala habitats is expanding thanks to a long-term project that is just starting to bear fruit.
Three years ago, Powerlink, Ipswich City Council and Healthy Waterways and Catchments planted 12,500 gum trees on a 27ha site at Grandchester.
The area is a known home to one of Queensland's last remaining healthy koala populations, but the parcel of land concerned was relatively bare before the end of 2013.
The plantings took place at the Grandchester Conservation Estate, a site owned by Ipswich City Council. The project has involved rehabilitating degraded grazing farmland to establish connectivity for surrounding koala habitat.
In a few short years, the saplings have shot to more than 3m in height, with some climbing up to 8m.
Powerlink Chief Executive Merryn York said koala food and shelter trees continued to grow at a rapid pace and showed no signs of slowing down.
"The habitat provides an important koala corridor, establishing connectivity to surrounding koala habitat in the Ipswich area," Ms York said.
"Most trees also have healthy new leaf and stem growth due to the warm spring and recent rainfall.
"A few of the trees are already up to eight metres high, so we're looking for signs that koalas are ready to call some of these trees home. There are definitely signs of animal activity so we're hopeful koalas are next."
The saplings were planted to offset land clearing conducted for power infrastructure.
Ipswich Koala Protection Society president Ruth Lewis said her organisation supported the intiative, but said much more needed to be done to ensure the survival of koalas in the region.
"We still need to recognise that koalas won't translocate and it is law that adult koalas must be relocated to within 5km of their original homing range," Ms Lewis said.
"There is still a big koala population in Ipswich and we need to create connectivity through koala corridors."
Healthy Waterways and Catchments Chief Executive Officer, Julie McLellan, said the project had exceeded expectations, given 2016 was one of the driest years in the last decade.
"Despite these difficult conditions, the trees have thrived and, on average, doubled their expected heights," she said.
"During a time when south-east Queensland's koala population is under threat, this project has established critical habitat which will help koalas and other native wildlife thrive."