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Urban Utilities will plant 1,200 native gum trees in an effort to create an additional three hectares of koala-friendly habitat in the Lockyer Valley, Queensland.

The seedlings are being planted on the utility’s farmland neighbouring its Helidon Resource Recovery Centre, and will be irrigated with recycled water from the facility.

Urban Utilities’ Environment Water Quality Futures Specialist, Cameron Jackson, said the sustainable watering system would allow the trees to thrive, whatever the weather.

“While we’ve had a wet start to 2022 and La Nina is under way, we know climate change means longer and more frequent droughts are likely in the future,” he said.

“That’s why we’re using recycled water to irrigate our drought-resilient koala habitat, it’s a climate independent source of water which means we don’t have to rely on the rain for our trees to grow.

“This agroforestry project is a great example of how we’re finding ways to manage water more sustainably, by using it more than once.”

Koalas were officially declared an endangered species in Queensland earlier this year after previously being listed as ‘vulnerable’.

Mr Jackson said the seedlings being planted would expand the utility’s existing native forest first established in 2019.

“We planted 1,600 blue gums, silver-leaf ironbark and Moreton Bay ash seedlings during one of the driest years on record and, thanks to recycled water, those trees have survived drought and are already around five metres high,” he said.

“The additional seedlings will increase our total koala habitat in Helidon to around seven hectares – enough to span around seven rugby league fields.

“The forest will be irrigated with an average of around ten Olympic swimming pools of nutrient-rich recycled water every year.”

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