A cute and cuddly VIP at the Noosa koala land acquisition announcement.
A cute and cuddly VIP at the Noosa koala land acquisition announcement. Peter Gardiner

Biggest green lift since Marcus win

NOOSA'S decision-makers rate it "the most significant environmental protection project in Noosa for 20 years”, up there with preservation of the Marcus high dune in the 1990s.

And before that, they say the biggest green "save” was securing Noosa North Shore from major development.

The $3.5 million 2400ha buy-out of HQ Plantation's state forestry rights by Noosa Council, the State Government and Noosa Parks Association was achieved, Mayor Tony Wellington said, with "an unprecedented level of co-operation for a great environmental outcome that will continue to play out over the next half-decade and more”.

He said this Yurol and Ringtail Koala corridor project instigated by the NPA would crucially connect the Cooloola section of the Great Sandy National Park with the Noosa hinterland.

"That's not only prime koala habitat being converted to national park, but close to one-and-a-half thousand hectares of plantation land is being restored to biodiverse native forest,” the mayor said.

"It is hard to express just how significant this project is to Noosa's reputation as an active environmental manager, to the future for threatened species in Southeast Queensland including the koala, and also to potential tourism activities in our shire and thus the local economy.”

Cr Wellington says the 750ha pine harvested area will become an interim conservation park with council as trustee.

A targeted rehabilitation program will be implemented for the pine areas with council and the NPA funding those costs.

"Some areas may be left to naturally regenerate as there is already evidence that previously harvested areas are naturally recovering, whereas other areas may need some assistance with planting of suitable trees, particularly koala food trees,” a council briefing paper said.

"Council will commit to funding rehabilitation for up to five years.

"At the end of the five-year rehabilitation period, the former pine plantation area will also transition to national park.”

Cr Wellington says the council has consulted locally with Noosa and District Landcare "walking all over it to inform us what they think's involved”.

Council CEO Brett de Chastel said about 95per cent of the land area would be national park "from day one” with a likely cost for the rehabilitation program about $1.2 million to $2 million.

"The worst-case scenario if we need to do a lot more intensive remediation, it might be $3 million,” he said.

Mr de Chastel said the council had previously "trumpeted” the environmental levy purchase of 92 hectares of nearby land for conservation at a cost of $2.7 million, whereas for $3.5 million HQ Plantations would walk away from long-held forestry land 26 times the size.

There are about 30 vulnerable and endangered species in this area, apart from koalas, including the giant barred frog and the ground parrot.

Mr de Chastel said Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles, the NPA and HQ Plantations had been tremendously committed to seeing this outcome through, keeping in mind the significance of its impact.

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