Wollongong will soon have 700 new eucalypts growing near Lake Illawarra but it won't be long before their branches are ripped off and fed into a mincer.
That mincer would be the mouth of a koala, of course, and the tree planting is part of a project where Wollongong City Council is planting the gums for koalas at Helensburgh's Symbio Zoo.
The iconic marsupial has become endangered in recent years, mainly due to habitat destruction and disease, and the gums planted recently with help from Koonawarra Primary School students will ensure local koalas will have an emergency supply if a bushfire wipes out food sources.
The "food forest" has eucalypts planted in rows, vineyard style, at Eleebana Reserve in Koonawarra, with the specimens having been selected to suit the preferences of the koalas' palates.
It will be about 18-24 months before leaves off the newly planted trees can be harvested, the council said.
Once they are established the leaves will be harvested regularly to feed the koalas that live at Symbio.
In the event of large-scale natural disasters like a bushfire, these trees' leaves an be used as an emergency food source for koalas in emergency care.
Wollongong City Lord Mayor Councillor Gordon Bradbery AM said that the students' hard work planting the new forest would fill many hungry koala bellies.
"It's fantastic that we're able to use our open spaces and the staff's knowledge and expertise to grow much-need eucalyptus trees that will feed the local koalas at Symbio and provide shade and oxygen for the local community," he said.
Once the trees have reached about two years of age, Symbio will sustainably harvest 25 to 100 small branches (about a ute-load) every few weeks, depending on growth rate.
"We thank Wollongong City Council, and Wild Conservation for their support and partnership in helping create the first public space koala feed forest in our region," Symbio Wildlife Park managing director Matt Radnidge said.
Wild Conservation is a bush services company which is supporting the project.
Wollongong City Council said it was including this project as part of its Urban Greening Strategy and estimated each mature tree planted on this site would offset 21kg of carbon dioxide equivalent per year.
"Wollongong City Council is committed to greening our suburbs as we know that it will help build more climate resilient communities," Cr Bradbery said.
"Trees are one of the best tools at our disposal to cool our suburbs, they also provide habitats for native flora and fauna, and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Residents can also request Council to plant a street tree on the public verge in front of their home.
The Adopt A Tree program is free and people can apply for a tree online.
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