The fully vaccinated public can now gather in Blackbutt Reserve’s picnic spaces

Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes and Cr Peta Winney-Baartz with Blackbutt staff members (L-R) Beth Woodhouse with Romeo the snake, Abbey Johnston with Carla the tawny frogmouth, Jemma Gosper with Kirra the koala and Abbie Ferris with Frida the frilled-neck lizard.

Blackbutt Reserve is still closed so far as the animal enclosures are concerned, but the park areas are open to the public for picnics.

While the walking trails have stayed open throughout lockdown, from today, the park areas have reopened for five fully vaccinated adults to make use of for picnics and outdoor recreation.

Blackbutt’s animal enclosures will remain closed until restrictions ease further.

Newcastle Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said Blackbutt’s staff have continued to feed and care for the animals in the wildlife exhibits throughout lockdown, while City of Newcastle crews were also forging ahead with almost $200,000 worth of improvement projects to enhance the facility’s natural environment and visitor experience.

“As one of Newcastle’s most popular tourist attractions, Blackbutt Reserve is a jewel in the city’s crown, much-loved by locals and visitors alike,” Cr Nelmes said.

“But looking after the environment and its inhabitants is no small task. Our rangers are responsible for two koalas, eight emus, 10 kangaroos, 19 wallabies, a dozen species of reptile, two species of frog, ‘Wally’ the wallaroo, ‘Sally’ and “Clyde” the wombats, and over 40 species of bird.”

“It’s a lot of mouths to feed every day and looking after all of them takes time and care. Our rangers work hard and should be commended because they do a wonderful job.”

Councillor Peta Winney-Baartz said City of Newcastle staff had been busy during lockdown maintaining the site and undertaking a range of improvement projects.

“Throughout the COVID-19 lockdown, City of Newcastle staff have continued to undertake regular maintenance across the reserve to ensure it’s in top shape when it reopens to visitors,” Cr Winney-Baartz said.

“They have also been using this time to deliver some significant projects, which will enhance the natural environment and visitor experience at Blackbutt now and into the future.”

Crews have begun installing two new irrigation systems at Richley Reserve and modernising the existing system, which will significantly improve water efficiency and the user experience of this area.

In the coming months, work will start on improving sections of the boardwalk that flow through the wildlife animal exhibits. The boardwalk project also incorporates replacement of supports at the koala enclosure, which delivers a truly unique visitor experience.

Improvements to the carparks at Carnley Avenue and Richley Reserve have been completed, including line marking, installation of wheel stops and new signage.