Location within corridor
The Black Rocks sports field is located 300 metres within and at the junction of three koala linkage corridors - an unprecedented location for a sports field (see Wildlife Corridor Map below).
All the primary koala habitat adjacent to the sports field and access road and the majority of koala movement are between the eastern portion of the sports field and the Black Rocks by the Sea residential estate.
As identified in the Black Rocks Koala Independent Plan of Management 2004 (IKPoM), this portion forms the direct north-south linkage pathway to Wooyung/Billinudgel Nature Reserves to the south.
Pottsville Wetland Restoration Plan 3.1.2 Conservation Significance states:
‘Pottsville Wetlands has been identified as part of a north-south and east-west regional fauna corridor in the Northern Rivers Regional Biodiversity Management Plan (DECCW 2010).’
Koala breeding areas
There is an established koala home range east of the sports field between two breeding areas. A daytime breeding event on 8/11/2013 was evidenced and reported adjacent to the access road, involving at least two koalas including a koala crossing the access road.
The sports field and access road are located at a central hub that facilitates east-west and north-south koala movement, which is ideally located at the southern end of the Tweed coast corridor for dispersal of gene diversity (see Wildlife Corridor Map above). Pottsville Wetlands-Black Rocks is home to one of three koala sub-populations on the Tweed coast.
According to Sandy Pimm (Ecologist and Senior Environmental Planner, City of Gold Coast and former Tweed Shire Council ecologist):
‘The Black Rocks/Pottsville Wetlands koala sub-population is critical to the survival of the koala on the Tweed coast.’
Recommended revegetation of large habitat block
Ecologists Dr Steve Phillips and Sandy Pimm recommend that the sports field and access road ideally should be revegetated with koala habitat trees as they are strategically located within the corridor to create a large habitat block with sufficient buffers from the impacts which are driving them towards extinction. (NOTE: Dr Phillips is a renowned koala expert, Managing Director/Principal Ecologist of Biolink Ecological Consultants and Principal Ecologist of the Tweed Coast Koala Habitat study (click here ).
Habitat classification of bushland surrounding sports field and access road
The bushland surrounding this site is classified core koala habitat, has a resident koala population and supports Endangered Ecological Communities. These characteristics triggered the Black Rocks IKPoM. Since then this bushland has naturally regenerated with significant stands of primary koala food trees (see Updated Habitat Map above).
Access road corridor value
The sports field is connected to the Black Rocks by the Sea residential estate to the east by a 300 metre winding access road. Primary koala food trees (Swamp Mahogany) line the northern edge of the access road, and there is a significant stand of primary koala habitat on the southern side. Evidence of koalas traversing the access road (including during breeding activity) has been reported by local resident David Norris. James Warren & Associates Ecological Assessment 2011 (JWA 2011) also identified a koala crossing the access road.
Sports field – adjacent vegetation value
The bushland adjacent to the south-east corner of the sports field (where the Men's Shed and car parking are to be located) has a significant concentration of evidenced and reported koala activity. Two koalas suffering from the stress-related disease chlamydia were sighted in this area (one was captured and later euthanased). Primary koala food trees (Swamp Mahogany) line the northern and eastern edges and the eastern portion of the southern edge of the sports field.
Threatened species sightings
Between October 2011 and December 2015, 103 koala sightings (including breeding activity, 4 individuals sighted concurrently on several occasions and koalas crossing the access road during the day between preferred habitat) and 67 bush stone-curlew sightings (including 3 individuals sighted concurrently) have been evidenced and logged into the OEH Bionet Wildlife Atlas and reported to the Tweed Shire council . Planit Consulting Pty Ltd have documented koala sightings south of the sports field and access road in the Dunloe Sands mining operation Rehabilation Zone 1.
Threatened Status of Tweed Coast Koalas
According to TCKHS 2011, there were an estimated 144 koalas left on the Tweed coast, with a 50% population decline (mainly due to fire) over the previous decade. TCKHS 2011 estimated that there were 35 koalas in the Pottsville Wetlands (which included Black Rocks).
In 2014 prior to the Christmas day Pottsville Wetlands bush fire, Dr Steve Phillips announced at a public talk in Pottsville that there were an estimated 100-110 koalas left on the Tweed coast. At this rate of decline he stated that we can expect koalas to be extinct on the Tweed coast by 2025-2030. According to TCKHS 2011, the minimum viable koala population size is considered to be 170.
In October 2014 the NSW Scientific Committee made a Preliminary Determination to support a proposal for the threatened status of the Tweed coast koalas to be upgraded to 'endangered' (koalas are currently listed as 'vulnerable' in New South Wales). On 12 October 2015 the Preliminary Determination was amended to include koalas between the Tweed and Brunswick Rivers east of the Pacific Highway as an endangered population. A Final Determination has not yet been made.