Thousands of trees will be planted across the South Coast to help grow koala populations and create safe habitats for the endangered marsupial.
Gilmore MP Fiona Phillips announced on Tuesday, December 6, that 6000 native trees would be planted on six private properties in the Eurobodalla and Shoalhaven, including Higgins Creek Farm in Cockwhy just north of East Lynne.
The $200,000 project to support koalas will be led by The Coastwatchers Association which has been monitoring local populations for years.
The plantings will create safer passages for koalas to breed and forage and would help remove weeds which may present fire risks and prevent koalas from moving freely.
The project is funded by the federal government's $76.9 million Saving Koalas Fund.
In late 2021, The Coastwatchers Association released a study that said koalas had been spotted at East Lynne in 1980 and 2001. In 2004, koalas were seen near Pebbly Beach and Shallow Crossing north of Nelligen.
The study said in December 2019, while bushfires ravaged the region, a koala was seen entering Murramarang National Park on the eastern edge of the Princes Highway near the East Lynne store.
A large male koala was recorded three times in the Murrah Flora Reserve south of Bermagui in July and August 2023.
The spottings came after a Far South Coast resident raised funds to set up 10 artificial water stations for the marsupial.
Keith Joliffe from The Coastwatchers Association said there have only been a handful of reliable koala sightings in the region since the Black Summer bushfires.
"I'd like to thank Fiona [Phillips] for her support," he said.
"This funding is a huge step for us, we're a small volunteer group who have been working for a decade to monitor and support the local koala population."
The funding will also allow the group to use a thermal imaging drone at Higgins Creek Farm to survey up to 100 hectares and locate koalas.
"It's going to be really exciting to collect more information on their possible locations and movements," Mr Joliffe said.
The 2021 study said koalas were seen at the Kioloa ANU campus and also seen crossing the highway near Termeil at night during the 1970s.
In September 2021, the Australian Koala Foundation estimated that koalas were extinct in the Gilmore electorate, however rare modern sightings suggested otherwise.
"We're talking about trying to support, and possibly revive, a low-density koala population.
"This is a very exciting local project."