A chance encounter between Sutherland Shire Council staff and volunteers undertaking work for the state’s leading wildlife rescue organisation has led to a joint initiative that its hoped will provide a haven and ongoing food source for local native animals.

Volunteers from the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) were first noticed collecting cuttings from trees on Council maintained property earlier this year, with these cuttings then used to feed injured wildlife under the group’s care.

Council staff arranged to meet with local WIRES volunteers soon after to determine a more suitable long-term solution for the groups needs, which sparked plans for a joint tree planting effort on Council owned property Barden Ridge which is hoped will provide a more suitable and sustainable food source for native animal populations.

As part of the project, dubbed ‘Operation Marsupial’, Council staff and WIRES volunteers joined together over the weekend to plant around 300 native trees across the Barden Ridge site, with an additional 100 native shrub and grass plantings taken from stocks donated to the project by Sutherland Shire Council.

The project will not only restore a variety of native vegetation to the area, but will also provide an ongoing source from which WIRES volunteers can harvest vital sustenance for the sick and injured native animals that come into their care.

Sutherland Shire Mayor, Councillor Carmelo Pesce said he was incredibly proud of the innovative approach taken by Council staff to find a suitable solution to the needs of local WIRES volunteers and to selflessly contribute so much of their own time and expertise to seeing the project through to fruition.

“Council staff have really gone above and beyond the call of duty to deliver a long-term solution to an ongoing need identified by local WIRES volunteers, one that will bolster their efforts to look after sick and injured wildlife,” Mayor Pesce said.

“It’s a commendable example of Council staff thinking outside the box and working collaboratively with other agencies to deliver tangible results for our community, and in this case, most importantly for our furry friends in need of rehabilitation and care.

“Council is incredibly proud to support WIRES in the excellent work that they do, and we thank the many volunteers who leant their efforts to this project at every stage from planning to planting.”

WIRES CEO Leanne Taylor also commended the project, saying the joint effort between WIRES and Sutherland Shire Council was believed to the first such project conducted in the state.

“WIRES is delighted to be part of ‘Operation Marsupial’ and we thank Sutherland Shire council for introducing this native wildlife feed trees initiative,” Ms Taylor said.

“To have access to a dedicated source of native foliage is an enormous help to local wildlife rescuers as fresh food sourcing is a daily challenge for carers. I believe this is the first council in NSW to offer to help native animals in this way and we are extremely appreciative. WIRES is hopeful this much needed initiative will encourage other councils across NSW to also consider native wildlife tree and shrub plantings.”

Around 18 local WIRES volunteers joined a small group of Council staff onsite over the weekend to get the project underway, working together to revegetate the New Illawarra Road, Barden Ridge, site.