Sarah Harvey

Appeal will help bear costs

THE Bellingen Environment Centre (BEC) and the National Parks Association of NSW (NPA) are calling for community donations to help develop a koala conservation park south of Coffs Harbour.

The Great Koala National Park will be a protected area for the native animal, and is proposed to include a viewing area, cafe, information and media centre, education and research centre, koala hospital and rehabilitation enclosures.

Koala numbers have plummeted by a third in just 20 years, with habitat loss due to logging and urban development the greatest threat to the animal.

Researchers fear koala extinction is inevitable if nothing is done to protect their natural habitat.

The visitor centre and hospital are proposed to be built off the Pacific Highway, 16km south of Coffs Harbour and adjacent to Bongil Bongil National Park.

PLANS: A concept drawing of the Great Koala National Park visitor centre by architect Steve Gorrell. INSET: Koala numbers have dropped by a third in the last 20 years.
PLANS: A concept drawing of the Great Koala National Park visitor centre by architect Steve Gorrell. INSET: Koala numbers have dropped by a third in the last 20 years. Emily Burley

Concept drawings have been prepared by Bellingen architect Steve Gorrell, who designed the Dorrigo Rainforest visitor centre and other visitor features. NPA communications manager, Tandi Spencer-Smith, said the proposal was developed around eight months ago.

"At that stage we presented it to government and Member Luke Foley gave his support for the plan, as did the NSW Greens, but what we're doing now is advocating for the NSW government to commit to the park," she said.

A crowd funding proposal for the 315,000ha refuge has been put together by the NPA, and is backed by research from the BEC, the Clarence Environment Centre, Nambucca Valley Conservation Association Inc., the North Coast Environment Council and the North East Forest Alliance.

"The plan is very much grounded in science, it's worked on by a number of local organisations and it's part of a bigger reserve proposal for koalas.

"This park is sort of our flagship project which on its own would conserve more than 20% of our remaining wild koalas in NSW," Ms Spencer-Smith said.

The campaign is primarily focused on raising funds to advocate to the state government for the park, with $5,779 of the $10,000 target so far achieved.

"It's always a bit of a slow process getting national parks established so at the moment we're doing a lot of behind-the-scenes things like meeting with ministers and working out the economics.

"If we raised above and beyond that target it will allow us to do some on-the-ground work such as planting of koala food and habitat trees."

If the proposal is approved, further funding to establish the park would be provided by the NSW government.

Community donations can be pledged at www.koalapark .org.au/show-your-support.



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