September 2011: Normally, the freshwater canals behind Pottsville Waters are full as water continually flows in from the Pottsville Wetland. This area provides important koala habitat.
September 2011: Normally, the freshwater canals behind Pottsville Waters are full as water continually flows in from the Pottsville Wetland. This area provides important koala habitat.

BEFORE AND AFTER: Photos show Tweed drought reality

TWEED'S koala habitats have not only changed dramatically under the region's lack of rain but they are also a high bushfire risk.

Most of the Tweed Shire is still categorised as being under 'intense drought' leaving koala habitats in the on the Tweed Coast floodplain forested wetlands extremely dry.

The tinderbox conditions have spurred council to warn residents about the fire risk especially in regard to illegal camping.

Typically wet places like the Pottsville Wetland which contains two of the primary koala food trees, the Swamp Mahogany and the Forest Red Gum, are also dry.

Council's bushland officer Tanya Fountain said if a fire starts in dry peat soils, comprising of partially decayed and densely packed organic material, it burns with high intensity and is difficult to extinguish.

December 2019: The freshwater canals behind Pottsville Waters are drying as water has stopped flowing in from the Pottsville Wetland. The wetland is now dry.
December 2019: The freshwater canals behind Pottsville Waters are drying as water has stopped flowing in from the Pottsville Wetland. The wetland is now dry.

"As well as the loss of koalas due to high intensity fire, it can also result in the loss of koala habitat due to collapse of trees, as the fire burns deep into the soil and destroys it," Ms Fountain said.

Over the summer holiday period, council rangers will continue to monitor key spots known for illegal camping which are at higher risk of fire.

"Bush fires are more likely to spread and cause damage on days when the weather is very hot, dry and windy," Ms Fountain said.

"These are usually on very high to extreme fire days and the NSW Rural Fire Service may declare a total fire ban, meaning no fire may be lit in the open and all fire permits are suspended.

"Devastating bushfires over the last few months have resulted in significant declines to many koala populations throughout NSW.

"Because of this, it is even more important to protect the Tweed's koala populations," she said.

"Keep a watch out for koalas this summer, particularly in our known koala habitat reserves at Cudgen Nature Reserve, Koala Beach bushland estate, Pottsville Environment Park and Pottsville Wetland."

Tips to protect Tweed's koalas:

1. Report a fire immediately by calling 000. The quicker the RFS can respond, the better chance they have at being able to contain the fire.

2. Report any suspicious behaviour or suspected arson to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000. Bush fire arson is dangerous. It can destroy lives, properties and have long-term effects on the environment, including koalas.

3. Report any sick, injured or orphaned koalas to Friends of Koala 24-hour hotline on (02) 6622 1233 or find out more information or report koala sightings at www.tweed.nsw.gov.au/koalas

One of the organisations in council's annual Mayoral Christmas Appeal, running until the end of January, is Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers, who rescue and rehabilitate local wildlife.

Online donations can be made to Tweed Valley Wildlife Carers at tvwc.org.au.