Koala Beach Housing Development

In association with The Ray Group, a Gold Coast based developer, the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) has taken the first steps towards creating a Koala-friendly development where a community makes conscious compromises to its lifestyle so that it can co-exist with wild Koalas. The development site is located on the northern New South Wales coast, just north of Pottsville. Formerly a cattle property called Searanch, the housing estate is now known as Koala Beach.

If people really are to live in harmony with wild Koalas, measures such as no dogs, keeping all the Koalas' food trees and home range trees, educating the residents to understand and respect the Koalas' needs and restricting vehicle speeds, need to be put to the test and not just talked about. All these things are happening at Koala Beach and we are cautiously optimistic about the results.

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In 1993, the Australian Koala Foundation and The Ray Group agreed to work together to bridge the gap between conservation and development. Deborah Tabart and Brian Ray discussed the principles of making a Koala-friendly development, but even though the basic tenets as described above seemed straightforward, the reality of putting them into practice was very complicated.

The process began with the AKF undertaking a twelve month study of the Koala population which would potentially be affected by the proposed development. The study involved putting radio collars on each Koala and tracking every one on a daily basis. This process helped consolidate the AKF's understanding of the Koala's social dynamics and contributed a huge amount of valuable data that complemented the work being done on the Koala Habitat Atlas. It also afforded us the privilege of meeting and forming relationships with Arnie, the dominant male Koala on the site, and the other individuals within the group.

Once the Koala Management Plan for the Searanch/Koala Beach site was complete, it was submitted to The Ray Group who was then able to design the development around the Koala population living on the site, not the other way around, as is usually the case. Every single food tree and home range tree has been retained, there are traffic calming devices at each point where we know Koalas will move within their home ranges, and the developer has planted additional trees recommended by the AKF as feed trees for the Koalas and other native species living on the site. In addition to the design of the development, all those people buying properties at Koala Beach must agree not to own cats or dogs and to adhere to building regulations which include Koala-friendly fence designs.

Out of a total area of 365 hectares owned by the developer, 272.395 hectares have been dedicated intact to conservation. The housing estate has been designed around the remaining 92.605 hectares which had previously been partially cleared for cattle grazing. The developer has replanted additional food trees for Koalas and other native species such as Glossy Black Cockatoos and Blossom Bats.

Koala Beach Fact Sheet

  • In 1993 the Australian Koala Foundation (AKF) and the Ray Group agreed to work together to bridge the gap between conservation and development.
  • Koala Beach, home to a small but significant Koala population, was the first property to be master planned and designed with the protection of the environment as its priority.
  • The project began with the AKF conducting a two year study of the Koala population that could potentially be affected by the proposed development.
  • Each Koala was humanely fitted with radio collars and tracked on a daily basis, (this enabled researchers to determine the colony's home ranges and food trees).
  • Once the Koala Management Plan for Koala Beach was complete, it was submitted to the Ray Group who was then able to design the development around the Koala population living on the site. The AKF has been involved in all stages of development since that time, refining and fine tuning the environmental issues as they change.
  • To ensure the protection of the resident Koala colony and other important wildlife a number of initiatives were developed. These included:

    • No cats and dogs within the estate.
    • The inclusion of speed bumps near known Koala home ranges.
    • A requirement that all fences within the estate be raised so that Koalas and other wildlife can enjoy free access around the estate.
    • The provision that no Koala home range or food tree be removed for development purposes.
    • The establishment of a Wildlife and Habitat Management Committee with funding from an environment levy on the rates.
  • Out of a total area of 365 hectares, 272.395 hectares have been dedicated intact to conservation.
  • The developer and the AKF planted additional food and habitat trees for Koalas and other native species living on the site. This is an ongoing project.
  • To ensure the conservation of the Koalas and other wildlife, an ongoing monitoring and research program was established. Subsequent studies have determined that descendents of the original Koala colony appear to be living happily in the area and may not have been adversely affected by the development. Future monitoring will give more information.
  • In addition to the Koala population, Koala Beach is home to approximately 25 species of endangered or rare flora and fauna, including planigales (a small marsupial), the Queensland blossom bat and a number of threatened microbats, the wallum froglet, glossy black cockatoos, the bush thick-knee and arthraxon hispidus (a threatened grass).
  • Despite its early skeptics, Koala Beach has been hailed a success by developers, residents and biologists. It has provided the perfect model for the coexistence of wildlife and humans, and applauded as a "made for the future development" (The Weekend Australian).
  • Koala Beach Estate has become part of the curriculum in a North Coast Institute of TAFE diploma of Business and Real Estate.
  • Koala Beach is in stage six of its final land release. It is located in Northern NSW, just north of Pottsville.