ECO WARRIOR: Joseph Van Haren with one of his three five-week-old goat kids,  an added attraction to his Koala Nature Walk at Rozelle Park at Goomboorian. Mr Van Haren is devoting his property and resources to saving koalas and koala habitat.
ECO WARRIOR: Joseph Van Haren with one of his three five-week-old goat kids, an added attraction to his Koala Nature Walk at Rozelle Park at Goomboorian. Mr Van Haren is devoting his property and resources to saving koalas and koala habitat. Troy Jegers

Goomboorian venture to help koala populations

HIS quiet 53 acres (21ha), called Rozelle Park, at Goomboorian are a world away from the front lines of Afghanistan, and that's just how former Navy cook Joseph Van Haren likes it.

Now, he's waging a war of a different kind - on the decline of the Queensland koala.

Twenty (8ha) of his 53 acres are already protected habit according to zoning by the Department of Primary Industries and Fishing and part of an important wildlife corridor, but for MrVan Haren, that's not enough to halt the steady decline.

"With the help of Landcare, I've planted another 300 trees in that section. But I'd really like Main Roads to come on board and help clear the soil from either end of the tunnels (under Tin Can Bay Rd) to encourage wildlife to use those rather than crossing the road,” he said.

Mr Van Haren is trained as a chef and spent six years in the Navy aboard HMAS Melbourne, two submarines and working at a naval base, but he was also a chef in a field kitchen for the US Marines on the front line in Afghanistan.

But that is a lifetime ago for the Goomboorian family man, who grew up on mixed animal farm near Coffs Harbour.

As a way to bankroll his conservation work, MrVan Haren has opened up his property, which already has a steady population of about six to eight koalas, and created a nature walk.

The 1.2km circular track takes in some of the diversity of environments on his property and has signs notifying visitors which varieties of trees are preferred by the koalas and, therefore, more likely to have a furry boarder.

Mr Van Haren is very knowledgeable about koalas, and is an excellent guide to help people spot the difference between Queensland and southern koalas and learn about the plummeting koala numbers over the past century.

He also has a collection of farm animals for visitors to meet, feed and interact with, including sheep, goats, cattle, pigs, chickens and peacocks.

The farm animals are designed to be an added attraction and at the moment there are three five-week-old goat kids gambolling about their enclosure.

Rozelle Park is very much a work in progress, but MrVan Haren would love people to come along and go on the nature walk and meet his animals and donate a gold coin to help him fund this venture.

"I've got a good mix here of what a koala forest should be like,” he said.

Gympie Times


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