A potential conflict between Tanilba Bay residents and the local Landcare group over the planting of nearly two dozen koala feed trees along the foreshore has been averted through the conciliation of Port Stephens Council.
The unauthorised planting of 23 eucalyptus robusta by the Tilligerry Landcare group in a koala habitat hotspot last week had attracted the ire of some residents living opposite Peace Park.
A council spokesperson said that analysis of available data and studies had indicated there was a viable corridor between the Tilligerry Habitat to Meridian Park and Sunset Park.
"Recent site inspections conducted by the council identified that the current tree population within the corridor was 'mature to over-mature' and likely to require removal within the next 15 years. There are no younger trees within this corridor to replace the mature trees," the spokesperson said.
"In August a council officer was on site to mark out preferable locations for the new plantings.
"Due to a misunderstanding with the volunteers [Tilligerry Landcare group] who are assisting with the planting, around 20 trees were planted before community consultation had concluded and the sites formalised.
"Trees erroneously planted are planned for removal and re-siting next week."
Landcare president Fran Corner said the compromise reached by the council was a satisfactory outcome for all concerned.
"It would be hoped, however, that only a percentage of the trees are removed and that some remain," she said.
"There is a desperate need to plant more feed trees to ensure the future of the koala on the Tilligerry peninsula. I have lived here for 45 years and I have never seen a single koala feed tree planted along this foreshore.
"This foreshore was once full of trees but they have slowly disappeared predominantly through storm damage and age. It is labelled a koala corridor. We cannot continue to treat nature with contempt."
Landcare spokesperson Bay Marshall said that the council deserved to be congratulated for supporting the koala hospital but warned the project would not be a success without an influx of new koala feed trees and somewhere koalas can be released after rescue.
"When we began planting along the Tanilba Bay foreshore many residents came out and offered their support."
However, many residents used social media to condemn the unauthorised planting, citing issues of lack of consultation and loss of water views.
The council spokesperson said that planting was required to ensure trees are at the right maturity for koala utilisation in 10-15 years.
"Without new plantings, there is risk that the local population of koalas will become fragmented and face local extinction. The tree planting at Tanilba Bay is in the first stage of planting and further planting will occur in Tanilba Bay in Autumn 2020," the spokesperson said.
"For projects such as tree planting that are undertaken on public land or on/in council facilities by Landcare groups, discussion with the appropriate council officer and consent should be sought."
The spokesperson said council had been undertaking koala habitat and corridor enhancement work on the Tomaree peninsula for five years, with more than 1500 koala feed trees planted in reserves and parks.
"The objective of this work is to increase koala corridors and food resources to enable safer movement of koalas through urban landscapes."