Air Force volunteers are planting 5000 trees to safeguard koala populations.
Staff are rolling up their sleeves to plant a tree for every member working at RAAF Base Williamtown near Newcastle, NSW, in support of a feedstock tree planting project for the Port Stephens Koala Rescue Service.
With Air Force personnel leading an action committee made up of members from community organisations, the pilot project has also attracted support from branches of Defence Industry as well as local businesses.
The Port Stephens Koala Rescue Service supports the care for injured, sick and orphaned koalas and the support from RAAF Base Williamtown and project participants will have a positive impact on the native koala populations.
Planning for the project began in May last year, with the base offering help to identify vacant Defence land to support the cultivation of feedstock for the koala hospital.
A remote, 40ha Defence site at Lavis Lane in Williamtown was assessed as fit-for-purpose to provide the appropriate environment to plant, grow and nurture suitable feed stock with the potential for additional tree planting.
Action committee member and Port Stephens Council lead ecologist Lee McElroy provided specialist advice for site preparation and maintenance critical to the success of the project. Worimi Community Elders were also consulted.
Following the consultation and planning phase, a successful trial planting in late March tested and informed the active planting phase which followed on June 25.
Senior ADF Officer RAAF Base Williamtown Group Captain Peter Cluff said the project's success would be as a result of the collaborative efforts and strong community partnerships formed in support of the initiative and will be symbolic in its delivery.
"One of original aims of the project was to achieve the planting of 5000 trees – representing one for every uniformed and staff member who serves and works at RAAF Base Williamtown," Group Captain Cluff said.
"As a reflection of the base's strong commitment to the initiative – we have set a further goal of planting a total of 10,000 trees by the end of the project – effectively doubling our original goal.
"With the hard work of our action committee members, I am confident that we will achieve it."
Port Stephens Koala Rescue Service plantation manager Paul Holmquest said the initiative would deliver important support to the koala hospital.
"Given the fire events that occurred across Australia this year, our feedstocks have reached critical levels with more koalas currently in our care," Mr Holmquest said.
"We are therefore incredibly grateful to the base and the Williamtown community for coming to our aid; to assist in establishing a long-term solution to support the sustainment of feedstock supplies for our facility."
The Williamtown Koala Feed Community Project has been supported by personnel and staff at RAAF Base Williamtown, Estate and Infrastructure Group, members of the Port Stephens Koala Rescue Service, Joint Strike Fighter Division, Newcastle Airport, Port Stephens Council, Worimi community members as well as regional business and services.