A bear spotted at Bonville Golf Resort. Credit: Tristan Jones
A bear spotted at Bonville Golf Resort. Credit: Tristan Jones

Koala stance could ‘botch’ economic recovery

COFFS Harbour Greens say The Nationals Member for Coffs Harbour, Gurmesh Singh, could be "botching" our economic recovery with his stance on koalas.

They have also expressed frustration at the lack of progress in formalising mountain bike trails in the Woolgoolga area.

Last week Mr Singh threatened to cross the floor in NSW Parliament alongside Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis over proposed changes to protect koalas.

Under the changes, koala feed trees on the North Coast will go from 10 to 61 in an effort to "modernise koala protection laws" said NSW Planning Minister Rob Stokes.

RELATED: Singh supports Gulaptis' koala crossbench threat 100%

But convenor for the Coffs Harbour Greens, Jonathan Cassell, says Mr Singh should see koalas as an economic asset.

"Our economy has been sluggish for decades with unemployment currently the fourth worst in Australia at 11.3 per cent," Mr Cassell said.

"Gurmesh Singh seems to have a view that traditional jobs like logging, that have been in decline since the 80s, can save Coffs Harbour.

"But tourism is one of our leading employment industries and koalas offer us our best lifeline out of trouble."

A koala killed by a car and left for dead on the highway near the Lyons Road intersection.
A koala killed by a car and left for dead on the highway near the Lyons Road intersection.

An inquiry into koala populations and habitat in NSW found the Coffs Harbour region is now home to some of the most significant remaining populations on the east coast following the recent devastating bushfires.

RELATED: Coffs' role in the survival of wild koalas

This potential, combined with Coffs Harbour's desperate need for new industries, is something the local member should capitalise on, according to Mr Cassell.

"Ecotourism on the Coffs Coast has had many champions in the past but none as a Member of Parliament. Coffs Harbour is in desperate need for new industry opportunities but Mr

Singh seems unwilling to envision a stronger future for our region."

He is calling on the Member for Coffs Harbour to develop an ecotourism plan with mountain biking central to restoring the economic muscle to our region's economy.

"Mr Singh has a chance to create a thriving tourism industry where employment rides on the koala's back."

He has expressed frustration at the lack of progress in developing mountain bike trails in the region.

"Unfortunately, after eight attempts by the Coffs Coast Mountain Bike Alliance to obtain an occupational permit to build an economic future for Woolgoolga it has fallen on deaf ears."

Firefighters from a Fire Rescue NSW strike team helping a koala during the recent devastating bushfires. PHOTOS: Paul Sudmals
Firefighters from a Fire Rescue NSW strike team helping a koala during the recent devastating bushfires. PHOTOS: Paul Sudmals

He says there are other economic wins Mr Singh could focus on "instead of tearing the Liberal-National Party apart" such as carbon farming and ecological restoration grants

"Carbon farming in particular helps farmers make a living from leaving paddocks to regrow forests, or planting them out with organisations such as Greening Australia.

"Small farms can benefit just as much as large ones and we call on Mr Singh to work with his LNP colleagues.

"The world loves koalas and ecotourism can be Coffs Harbour's economic lifeline if Gurmesh wants it to be."



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