Stephen Thompson is the manager of Big River, a property owned by Mannifera Pty Ltd. The property is situated in Upper Orara, approximately 13km west of Coffs Harbour. Big River is a commercial cattle farm as well as a wildlife-friendly sanctuary and educational site, also registered as a Land for Wildlife sanctuary.
Big River is managed in an ecologically sensitive manner and habitat restoration is a priority. The owners are actively involved in local environmental groups such as Landcare and have conducted several field days on the property to share ideas and educate the local community on the protection and restoration of habitat. The owners plan to continue enhancing the existing land for native species, with goals to convert more of the property to habitat and improve the land’s rainforest vegetation through landholder programs such as the Orara River Restoration Project.
The property covers 35 hectares and is comprised of non-native pasture and regenerated native bushland. Over seven hectares of the block is fenced off from cattle, creating a two-kilometre exclusion zone along the Orara River.
The owners have regenerated the majority of the property’s riparian area over the last 20 years as part of the Orara River Restoration Project, planting local native species and removing dense thickets of privet (Ligustrum spp.) and camphor laurel (Cinnamomum camphora).
Vegetation is largely comprised of River Oak Riparian Forest of the Orara River Valley, with some elements of Lowland Rainforest on Floodplain in the NSW North Coast Bioregion, an Endangered Ecological Community. Additional plantings have created wildlife corridors, shelterbelts and shade for livestock and native species.
A wide range of wildlife is found on Big River, including threatened species such as platypuses (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), giant barred frogs (Mixophyes iteratus), eastern cod (Maccullochella ikei), rose-crowned fruit doves (Ptilinopus regina), wedge-tailed eagles (Aquila audax), white-bellied sea eagles (Haliaeetus leucogaster), powerful owls (Ninox strenua) and sooty owls (Tyto tenebricosa).
With hundreds of planted koala food trees on the land and several koalas spotted in the vicinity, the property has been identified as a Secondary Koala Habitat by Coffs Harbour City Council.