18 May 2023


Kyogle property owner Tony Rowland has become the first person to sign a permanent conservation agreement as part of a Collaborative Koala Habitat Protection project in the Northern Rivers.

The World Wide Fund for Nature-Australia, the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, the Biodiversity Conservation Trust and Envite Environment have partnered to invest funds and encourage permanent conservation agreements for private landholders to protect, restore and manage koala habitat on their land in the Northern Rivers region.

Tony’s forest contains a critically endangered shrub called scrub turpentine, koala food trees such as forest red gum, small-fruited grey gum, and tallowwood, and is home to threatened species including koalas, black-striped wallabies, glossy black-cockatoos and giant barred frogs.

The conservation agreement covers about 20 hectares of the 28 hectare property.

“These conservation agreements are a win for landholders and the environment and I’d encourage other people to sign up,” Tony Rowland said.

“My aim is to leave the forest in better shape than it was when I bought it."

“That will give the wildlife a chance to live. There are so many threatened species, it’s heartbreaking. I want my property to be a conservation area forever so no-one can ruin all my hard work,” he said.

Tony has certainly been working hard to restore his forest. For the last five years, he’s been removing, by hand, a serious lantana infestation.

The lantana was so thick it prevented koalas from moving about the property, and smothered native grasses and young trees like she-oaks which are the only food source for glossy black-cockatoos.

With big areas of lantana removed, native grasses returned providing food for black-striped wallabies.

Tony said the task of restoring a forest can feel overwhelming. But in recent years, he has received much-appreciated help from NSW government officers and some local groups to identify weeds, tackle lantana, and learn more about the tree species and wildlife in his forest.

Two nest boxes for glossy black-cockatoos have just been installed. A cultural burn, overseen by Indigenous experts, is being organised partly to reduce fuel loads in the cooler weather when fires are easier to control.

“A lot of native grasses and grass trees need a burn to propagate,” Tony said.

Signing the conservation agreement locks in further assistance. A site action plan is written for each property.  Agreement holders can apply for grants to control weeds and pest animals, conduct supplementary revegetation with koala food trees, put up fencing to exclude stock, and install nest boxes.

Tony will receive more help to tackle the remaining lantana infestation at the back of the property.

“Lantana is by far the biggest enemy,” Tony said.

Tanya Pritchard, Landscape Restoration Project Manager, WWF-Australia, said another six property owners were in the finals stages of signing conservation agreements, including three others in Kyogle, and more in the Tweed, Clarence Valley, and Lismore.

“WWF is proud to be supporting landholders to protect precious koalas and other species. Every hectare protected is going to help us turn things around for koalas and take a step closer towards their recovery,” Tanya said.

“We are interested in land of a high conservation value, that connects areas of habitat, and is within a koala priority population area."

“The protection and restoration of existing habitat helps koalas and many other species living alongside them."

“WWF and the NSW Government are working together to reverse the decline of koalas in NSW,” she said.

WWF’s funding support for the conservation agreements is thanks to the many Australians who have donated to Regenerate Australia.

About Regenerate Australia

WWF’s Regenerate Australia is the largest and most innovative wildlife recovery and landscape regeneration program in Australia’s history. Launched by WWF-Australia in October 2020, the multi-year program will rehabilitate, repopulate and restore wildlife and habitats affected by the 2019-2020 bushfires, and help to future-proof Australia against the impacts of changing climate.

Find out more and help Regenerate Australia at https://wwf.org.au/what-we-do/help-regenerate-australia