Coffs and Bellingen councils will grant $25,000 each to fund a business case for the Great Koala National Park.
Coffs and Bellingen councils will grant $25,000 each to fund a business case for the Great Koala National Park. John McCutcheon

Councils to fund economic study into ambitious koala park

COFFS Harbour and Bellingen councils have agreed to jointly fund a study into the economic benefit the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) could have should it come to fruition.

Bellingen Shire Council yesterday moved a motion to allocate $25,000 from its Environmental Levy reserve to match Coffs Harbour City Council's grant to fund the study.

This comes as good news for the GKNP steering committee after Nambucca Shire Council resolved in January not to support the GKNP with concerns it would lead to job losses in the local forestry industry.

The steering committee is hoping the study will clarify the potential for job creation, as well as the potential impact it would have on the forestry industry.

The steering committee says the "1 per cent" of locals employed in forestry would be re-employed to work in similar positions for the GKNP.

At the Bellingen Shire Council meeting on Wednesday morning, councillors King, Klipin, Fenton and Wright-Turner voted in favour of funding the study while councillors Carter, Harrison and Jenkins voted against.

This follows the council's decision in 2017 to support, in principal, the GKNP proposal.

The GKNP steering committee had recently approached both councils seeking financial assistance to establish a comprehensive Business Case to use to attract grant funding for the park.

The park proposes to reserve native forest around the Coffs Harbour hinterland to protect two koala meta populations, including the Guy Fawkes to Coffs Harbour and the Bellingen-Nambucca-Macleay populations.

The committee have unveiled several concept plans for a 220km hiking track, mountain bike tracks, 4WD tours and horse riding trails, as well as a visitor centre for Bellingen which would potentially house a koala research centre and hospital.



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