Bangalow Koalas began, like most passionate not-for-profits, with a grassroots desire to make things better – in this case, for the koala population in western Bangalow, a hinterland village in the Northern Rivers.
Established in 2016, Bangalow Koalas is an incorporated not-for-profit whose mission is to create and protect a safe haven and corridor network for Byron Shire koalas so that they can thrive and move across the landscape. They also map local koala sightings and food trees.
To help plant a corridor between Bangalow and Lismore, Bangalow Koalas received a grant from our inGrained Foundation’s Northern Rivers Large Grants Program 2019.
We recently caught up with Linda Sparrow, president of Bangalow Koalas, who gave us an update on Bangalow Koala’s awesome progress this year, despite COVID-19 restrictions impacting their volunteer working bees.
How many trees has Bangalow Koalas planted since 2018 and where?
We’ve planted 34,660 trees so far, across Bangalow, Coopers Shoot, Talofa, Binna Burra, Ewingsdale, Federal, Possum Creek, Newrybar, Fernleigh, Booyong, Clunes, Tabulam and Coraki.
While we have 21,765 trees left to plant that we’ve self-funded already, we think we’re on track to have planted 40,000 trees by the end of this year alone!
More people are becoming aware of Bangalow Koalas. Has this impacted your volunteer working bees?
Initially, we had small numbers of volunteers for our immediate local area to come help us plant new trees in the different properties whose landowners we’ve partnered with. These days, though, we have volunteers coming from the five shires within the Northern Rivers, plus people coming from as far as Brisbane, Gold Coast and even Port Macquarie, Armidale, Uralla and Sydney sometimes!
How has Bangalow Koalas navigated COVID-19?
We haven’t let the virus get in the way of planting trees, at least! However, we have had to make some changes. While we can’t run our usual volunteer working bees under the current restrictions, we’re continuing to plant via a bush regeneration team that we’ve partnered with.
Whether funded or fundraised, we pay our bush regeneration team to prepare, plant and maintain the plantings at every planting session. Recently, we received funding from the Biodiversity Conversation Division of the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment to recruit people seeking work to assist the bush regeneration team to continue planting.
This includes securing work for seven people in our Byron Shire and five Indigenous rangers from the Minyumai Land Holding Aboriginal Corporation for a property down in Swan Bay near Coraki [about an hour south of our Byron Bay Tasting Room]. This funding will help plant out four large plantings, providing 77 days of paid work for these workers.
How can readers support Bangalow Koalas while the working bees are on hold?
We are always looking for funds to continue, as we have so many landholders wishing to offer their properties for parts of the corridor between Bangalow and Lismore, which our inGrained Foundation grant from last year has helped fund. People can become members of Bangalow Koalas for $10 and/or donate money for trees – $15 buys one tree, its planting and maintenance for three years.
However, we understand times like this are not ideal for fundraising, so currently we are concentrating on organising plantings over the next few months and once things return to normal we will return to community plantings.
People in the meantime can keep an eye out for sick/injured koalas and call the Koala Rescue Line on 6622 1233.