New ‘drought-proof’ koala habitat being planted in Lockyer Valley

Koalas in the Lockyer Valley will have three hectares of new, resilient prime real estate to call home with Urban Utilities planting 1,200 native gum trees in Helidon.

The trees will be sustainably irrigated with recycled water from the neighbouring Helidon Resource Recovery Centre, where the region’s wastewater is treated.

Michelle Cull from Urban Utilities said the environmentally friendly watering system would allow the trees to thrive, whatever the weather.

“While we’ve had a wet start to 2022 and we’re facing the possibility of another La Nina later this year, we know climate change means longer and more frequent droughts are likely in the future,” Ms Cull said.

“That’s why we’re using recycled water to irrigate our newly created koala habitat, it’s a climate-independent source of water which means we don’t have to rely on the rain for our trees to grow.

“We plan well ahead for the future and this project is a great example of how we’re finding ways to manage water more sustainably by using it more than once.”

Ms Cull said the seedlings being planted in Helidon this week would expand existing koala habitat first established by Urban Utilities in 2019.

“We planted 1,600 seedlings in one of the driest years on record and, thanks to the recycled water, they’ve survived drought and are already around five metres tall, which is incredible,” she said.

“The additional trees will increase our total habitat in Helidon to seven hectares – enough to span around seven rugby league fields.

“The native forest of 2,800 trees will be irrigated with an average of around 10 Olympic swimming pools of recycled water every year.”

Ms Cull said the project provided several environmental benefits including restoring native habitat, improving biodiversity, enhancing local waterways and reducing the site’s carbon footprint.

“We’re already starting to see a variety of wildlife, including birds and wallabies, enjoy our blue gum forest and we look forward to koalas moving in naturally as the trees mature,” she said.

“We also thank Lockyer Valley Regional Council for supporting the project by providing ongoing weed and pest management as we work together to care for our environment.

“Reforestation projects like this not only protect some of Australia’s adored native animals, they’re also an important part of our commitment to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2032.”

Koalas were officially declared an endangered species in Queensland earlier this year after previously being listed as ‘vulnerable’.

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