THERE are high hopes Iluka's koala population is returning to the area.
Sixteen years ago a small group of Iluka residents began replanting eucalypt trees in an attempt to lure back koala populations.
With much of the koalas' original habitat destroyed by sandmining - coupled with on-going deaths on the then- 100kmh speed limit Iluka Rd - the local koala population was under great stress.
Kay Jeffrey from the Association of Iluka Residents (AIR) said Iluka, at the time, was probably left with just a handful of koalas.
"After the sand-mining, the koala habitat had been removed . . . plus the road kill was very high," she said.
"I loved the koalas and got involved with Landcare . . . and that is how I got involved."
Ms Jeffrey said the wait had been long and slow, with occasional setbacks.
"Approximately two years ago we lost two koalas within a matter of weeks," she said.
"One was a female and she was between 12 and 14 years old who died of old age; the other was killed on Iluka Rd."
Despite those setbacks, Ms Jeffrey said there were signs of the koalas returning.
In recent months - and on separate occasions - a female koala with a joey, a single female and at least one male have been sighted in Iluka.
"They say if you plant the trees the koalas will come," Ms Jeffrey said.
"We have them (the koalas) up the top of Bundjalung, right down to Woombah.
"Once a baby's born it has to find new territory; so I think that's where our population is coming from."
The Clarence Environment Centre in South Grafton is noting and logging all reports of rare or endangered flora and fauna in the region.
Residents are being asked to report to the centre all sightings of koalas and other rare flora and fauna.
The time, date and location of any sighting should be reported to 6643 1863.