THE MID North Coast Correctional Centre will soon have 15 of its minimum-security inmates begin a project to regenerate bushland by planting a eucalyptus forest.
Organised in conjunction with local wildlife groups, including the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, the hope is that this initiative will ensure a future food supply for koalas in care at animal sanctuaries and create a local bush corridor for koalas, sugar gliders and native birds.
Corrective Services Industries overseer Adam Moffitt has been managing the project as inmates remove weeds and prepare the soil for the seedlings.
"We're planting a variety of trees for koala fodder, such as eucalyptus microcorys, eucalyptus tereticornis, eucalyptus saligna and most importantly eucalyptus nicholli, which is one of their favourites and also helps speed up their recovery," he said.
The program will be implemented over six years, and see an estimated 6000 to 7000 seedlings planted, covering an on-site area the size of 25 football fields.
"We aim to plant at least 1000 seedlings each year over the next few years, which will be about 20 seedlings a week," Mr Moffitt said.
"The project has actually grown from what it was initially, spurred by the recent fires."
Port Macquarie Koala Hospital was one of the many groups who donated the seedlings, and habitat coordinator Steve Withnall couldn't be happier with collaboration.
"In what is a national tragedy, the bushfires in and around Port Macquarie this month devastated a genetically diverse koala population," he said.
"As many as 350 koalas have perished with approximately 75 per cent of the fireground footprint being prime koala habitat.
"By planting eucalyptus seedlings we're able to ensure a healthy supply of food for koalas, not just in NSW but all across Australia."
Seedlings have also been donated by the Forestry Corporation of NSW, Kempsey Shire Council, Landcare and Billabong Zoo.