Fire - Major Threat to Koalas

Pottsville Wetlands bush fire Christmas day, 2014

On Christmas day, 2014 a bush fire, deemed by the Rural Fire Service to be deliberately-lit, destroyed or severely damaged over 200ha of primary and secondary koala habitat in the Pottsville Wetlands.  Dr Steve Phillips (ecologist and koala expert) has announced that based on statistics from fires of similar intensity, 30-50% of the Pottsville Wetlands koala source population may have perished, and that 10-15 koalas are likely to have survived.

The Black Rocks sports field and surrounding areas of habitat south of Kellehers Road were not affected by the fire, which Dr Phillips announced:

‘are now the last stronghold for the Pottsville Wetlands-Black Rocks koala population cell, from where recolonisation of the existing habitat areas (once they regenerate) is going to primarily occur.’  

He recommended a moratorium on development and future use of the sports field site until the resident koala population has had sufficient time to rest and recover to sustainable levels (click here for Dr Steve Phillip's talk 7/3/15 at Pottsville community hall).

Risk of fire to the environment

The risk of a similar deliberately-lit fire in the bushland (which includes primary koala habitat) surrounding the sports field and access road is therefore high, exacerbated by potential fire-lighting events similar to that which has previously been evidenced on the sports field adjacent to koala habitat.

Below is a photo of a deliberately lit fire on the sports field near koala habitat.

There is only one entry/exit point at the sports field site along an access road which winds through bushland for 300 metres.  If a bush fire were to occur, the NSW Rural Fire Service could be faced with fighting fires simultaneously on three fronts within each of the koala linkage corridors.  Access to these corridor linkages is limited to the south, east and west due to swamp land and Mooball Creek.

Risk of fire from petrol-powered model aeroplanes (see Model Aeroplanes and Impacts)

On 3 May, 2015 a very noisy petrol-powered model aeroplane, which could be heard in the adjacent residential development over 200 metres away, flew over and in close proximity to koala habitat and the osprey nest for about 1 ¼ hours (view video here).  During the plane operation an osprey was observed perched below the nest in the lower branches of the tree until the noise from the plane had ceased.  This is an indication that the osprey may have been under stress (see Osprey page).


Not only will threatened species be subject to stress-related disturbance from the noise and intrusion from this impactive activity, but there is a risk of fire if petrol-powered model aeroplanes crash into the bushland, explode and ignite.

For other threats to koalas at Black Rocks sports field area click here .

After the flying ceased, the plane operator was evidenced on the sports field adjacent to primary koala habitat holding his hands over his ears to block out the noise created by his high-revving plane as he purged fuel from the plane for a lengthy period of time prior to placing it in his motor vehicle and departing the subject site.  (On 10 May, 2015 a very noisy petrol-powered model plane also was flown over this area.)

Another petrol-powered model aeroplane incident occurred for approximately two hours at the Black Rocks sports field on 4 November 2015.  The aeroplane performed very complex manoeuvres, flying very low over trees where koalas have previously been sighted (see VIDEO).  The plane operator's motor vehicle had gained access to the sports field, even though the boom gate at the western end of the access road was locked.  The model aeroplane was refuelled several times during its operation.