Ambitious plan to save koalas is gaining momentum
Hailed by conservationists as an important step in reviving the state's dwindling koala population, the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) will soon establish its own headquarters.
The Urunga Visitor Centre will now also act as the headquarters for the GKNP, with Bellingen Shire Council this week voting to lease the centre out to the steering committee.
It's a major step for the ambitious proposal that aims to see 175,000ha of publicly owned State Forests added to existing protected areas to form a 315,000ha koala reserve in the Coffs Harbour hinterland.
This encompasses land containing the habitats of two koala meta populations.
Mayor Cr Dominic King said he believed the lease arrangement would deliver the 'best outcomes' for the local environment, while also creating a tourism asset that would attract investment to the region.
The National Parks Association of NSW has estimated it has the potential to bring more than $300m into the local economy.
"The GKNP will operate the Urunga Visitor Information Centre … to continue their work securing habitat for koalas to establish sustainable populations within our protected State Forests and the greater region," Mr King said.
Bellingen and Coffs Harbour councils recently matched a seed funding arrangement totalling $75,000, which the GKNP steering committee will use to develop a business case to garner State Government funding.
Committee member Kevin Evans said the joint visitor centre and GKNP headquarters will open for business on December 1.
"Having a headquarters will allow us to consolidate our plans, attract donations and volunteers, promote the value of the GKNP concept and fundamentally raise awareness of the threat to the koala species."
Earlier this year, the committee unveiled concept plans to construct horse riding, bushwalking, and mountain bike trails, as well as 4WD tours as part of the GKNP proposal.