February 2023

Welcoming Banyula to the Odonata Sanctuary Network

Photos by Annette Ruzicka

Banyula is a conservation project being undertaken by Tony and Penny O’Brien in Pillar Valley, the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales.

This property came to our attention when Tony and Penny took part in the first iteration of the Odonata Academy Sanctuary Coaching Program in 2021. Even then, the two of them stood out as perfect candidates to take part in the program and join our growing threatened species sanctuary network.

Both Tony and Penny have been involved in conservation for some time but in recent years their activities have become more direct and together they have purchased land in need of protection, which they seek to restore and hope to leave it with legal protection and funding for the future.

Through the Odonata Academy Sanctuary Coaching program, Tony and Penny were able to develop a vision for Banyula that aims to not only aims to protect and nurture the land but also use it for scientific research and community engagement in order to amplify the sanctuary’s impact. The region that surrounds Banyula boasts an active network of “Land for Wildlife” properties and Tony and Penny hope that they can leverage this network to make Banyula a hub for conservation activities and threatened species in a similar way to Mt Rothwell.

With such strong foundations for a successful sanctuary, construction of the fence at Banyula began in November 2022. This development has been scheduled in stages, the first stage aims to section off 70ha of the property, with the remaining 400ha to follow. This staged approach offers Tony, Penny and the Odonata team time to create a preliminary predator-free environment and we will begin plans for translocating species upon completion.

Banyula shares a boundary with the Candole State Forest, which abuts Yuraygir National Park, providing a substantial natural wildlife corridor. The property itself is largely dry sclerophyll forest with areas of wet schlerophyll forest, wetlands and swamp forest.

Guided by the Odonata team as well as Banyula’s Biodiversity Manager Adrian Deville and adviser Gina Hart, Tony and Penny’s vision for Banyula hopes to protect and breed threatened species such as the Coastal Emu, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Bush Stone-Curlew, Rufous Bettong and Long-nosed Potoroo.

With establishment works completed for the first stage of the sanctuary, Banyula will play an important role in Odonata’s greater vision of creating an integrated network of 30 feral-proof sanctuaries, focused on securing 30 threatened species across Australia by 2030. Additionally, the completion of this first stage marks the first Odonata sanctuary in New South Wales, with more to follow very soon!