A Sydney council’s efforts to support the conservation of koalas has been recognised.
Campbelltown City Council won the RH Dougherty Award for Excellence in Communication at last week’s NSW Local Government Week Awards.
Its Koalatown initiative connects schools, businesses, residents and koala experts to target issues relating to koala health.
Michaela Beattie, Environmental Education Officer for Council, said the award is not just for Council but also the community.
“The community being involved [in Koalatown], and running with it, is something that I think we’re really proud of, to work with those local champions like wildlife carers and experts in the field,” she told Government News.
“I think this means something to Campbelltown, which is really nice, not just for Council but for our community to work really hard to look after koalas.”
Empowering the community
Koalatown was launched in lockdown last year and began as an awareness campaign to empower the community to support the conservation of koalas.
The three aims of the campaign are informing residents to be careful on roads east of the train line at night, asking them to keep dogs on a lead and sharing information with the community.
“[We want them] to be really proud that Campbelltown is Koalatown and just spread those safety messages within the community and take action in their personal lives,” Ms Beattie said.
“We know a lot of the main threats to our koalas in Campbelltown are human influence… [and] actions can make a huge difference in actually protecting our koala population.”
“[We want them] to be really proud that Campbelltown is Koalatown and just spread those safety messages.” – Michaela Beattie, Environmental Education Officer
Campbelltown is home to over 200 koalas, the only chlamydia-free population in Greater Sydney, but not everyone in the community is aware of their whereabouts.
“A lot of people might not even know that we have koalas in the train lines, so it was really important for our community to be aware of it,” Ms Beattie said.
“And then to empower them to have the skills and the basic changes in their personal lives to make a difference.”
Through working closely with the communications team, they came up with innovative marketing strategies to inform the community, including a Spotify advertisement to target dog owners in the area.
“That was not only quite an affordable way to do it, but it had quite high rich,” Ms Beattie said.
A website was created at launch that encouraged citizens to sign up as supporters.
“When they signed up as a supporter, not only did we get really valuable information from the resident about their experience [and] how long they lived in the area… they also provided us information on their attitudes towards koalas,” Ms Beattie said.
Information packs were distributed to supporters telling them about threats to koalas, how to live with koalas in their habitat, along with dog leads and bumper stickers about Koalatown.
Council now has 883 Koalatown Supporters and has delivered 720 information packs to citizens.
Since launch, Council has received 9,652 visits to its website and has had over 300,000 views on social media.
The Koalatown Certified Schools program, which takes students on excursions to koala habitats, has had 19 school take part.
“They get a big sign which goes on their school; they use their [digital] message boards out the front during koala breeding season, which tells people to slow down,” she said.
The schools program has events where students plant koala food trees and conduct research. So far, there have been 28 events and 3,182 students have taken part.
Over 3,000 koala food trees have now been planted in parks throughout the local government area for wildlife carers to harvest for injured koalas in care.
And over 21,250 koala habitat trees have been planted across 5.3 hectares, or 10 football fields, of previously cleared agricultural land.
Habitat restoration, such as weed control, has been conducted across approximately 250 hectares of koala habitat.
Council has several citizen science opportunities coming up, where it will be inviting the community to join in on the field.
It also recently completed its long-term population monitoring report, which provides an indication of the location and number of koalas, allowing Council to monitor them into the future.