A koala habitat success story in the Southern Highlands

It's not just the Southern Highlands' important koala population that is thrilled about the recent signed conservation agreement for a unique property near Mittagong. The BCT, and the five families of land owners, are also thrilled for their history and their future. With sweeping views across private valleys, rivers, creeks, stands of ribbon gums, and even its own escarpment, the property is truly a site to behold, and a handful of visits will really only scrape the surface of its biodiverse secrets. 

In 1978, five families banded together to purchase a 100-hectare bush property near Mittagong. Now, over 40 years later, three generations of landholders are protecting and enjoying its biodiversity. 

The company, formed by the five families when they purchased the land, meets regularly to discuss its management. In 2020, the hot topic of these meetings was the BCT's Southern Highlands Koala Habitat conservation tender. 

They agreed to apply, despite some concern about the limited koala sightings. 

The BCT's Tuesday Heather, a Senior Conservation Officer who assisted landholders through the tender process, says that rare sightings are not necessarily a bad thing. 

"You won't find one in every tree, regardless of the how significant the tree species is in the area," Tuesday said. 

"You're looking at around one koala per one hundred hectares. But the prime habitat is here if they do need it as the Southern Highlands population recovers and expands. It's also really important to maintain that connectivity so they can move within the landscape." 

Habitat loss, through urban development and vegetation clearing, as well as the need to connect small populations, was a significant driver for running a conservation tender in the Southern Highlands. 

The intention was to create a network of conservation areas on private lands which would be protected in-perpetuity and provide safe havens for koalas to shelter, forage and move between. 

Needless to say, this was one of the successful properties in the Southern Highlands Koala Habitat conservation tender. This means that habitat for koalas - and threatened species such as the yellow-bellied glider, spotted-tailed quoll, scarlet robin and glossy black-cockatoo - is protected forever by a conservation agreement registered on the title of the land. This agreement comes with ongoing annual management payments, which will be used to fix fencing, control weeds, and address a wild pig problem, as well as other management activities.

One of the youngest residents of the property is Nell, the 15-year-old granddaughter of one of the original owners. Nell grew up visiting on weekends and taking her friends on adventures in the bush. Nell is proud of the decision to create a permanent conservation area on the property, especially with a growing concern amongst her peers about loss of habitat, climate change and other environmental issues which they'll have to face as they get older. She's also thrilled that if she eventually has children she knows this breathtaking land will always be there for them to enjoy. 

Check out the video on this story below.