We know that nature is the number one reason why people want to visit Australia, and nature-based tourism is worth nearly $20 billion per year to NSW! The koala is our most celebrated species, and The Australia Koala Foundation estimates that the value of the koala to Australia is $3.2 billion per year. They’re just too valuable to lose!
But despite koalas having contributed billions of dollars to Australia’s economy through tourism, little of this money has been directed back into koala conservation. We are at serious risk of killing our golden goose through inaction and complacency.
We want to ensure that the Great Koala National Park delivers the best possible outcomes for regional employment, visitor opportunities and local wellbeing. There are several ways that we see this happening:
- The Great Koala National Park will provide new opportunities for small business establishment to run nature-based experiences, ensuring jobs growth. Because of the scale of the Great Koala National Park, it will boost the economies of five Local Government Areas!
- Existing retail, accomodation and tourism businesses will benefit from the nature-based tourism that the GKNP will bring.
- Ranger and other on-ground jobs will be created in the management and restoration of forests in the Great Koala National Park: unfortunately, some of the forests have been degraded by logging and ongoing work will be necessary to restore them. The good news? This is a source of ongoing employment!
- Work is ongoing to develop regional recreation planning for the Great Koala National Park. Recreation is not only good for our health, but it’s good for business too! For example, in Rotorua (New Zealand), mountain bike tourism is now worth more to the town than the timber contained in the plantations that biking takes place in! With good planning, the Great Koala National Park will provide high-value recreation opportunities for many recreation activities.
To further maximise economic opportunities NPA and the Bellingen Environment Centre has commissioned the design of a koala visitor centre as a flagship gateway to the Great Koala National Park.
The Koala Centre will be situated on a forested ridge directly accessible from an existing exit on the Pacific Highway just south of Coffs Harbour. The site is highly visible, scenic, and less than one minute from the highway. No parent will be able to resist calls from the back seat to stop and look at koalas!
A central breezeway will form the entrance to the centre and give access onto a koala information and media centre and to the café. A forest viewing deck will allow for birdwatching, for indoor and outdoor eating in a natural setting and hopefully regular sightings of koalas!
The information and media centre will provide tourists with maps and walking routes of the Great Koala National Park – some of which will be accessible from the centre itself – as well as offer advertising opportunities for local businesses to benefit from the increased visitation.
The breezeway will also open onto an education and research centre, courtyard and outdoor classroom. A koala hospital with rehabilitation enclosures will be incorporated which will enable treatment of sick and injured animals, helping efforts to reverse population declines. In addition, the hospital will providing the public with opportunities to view koalas and learn about threats and efforts to conserve the species.
We are confident that the Koala Centre will attract not only passing motorists looking for quick refreshments, a break and a glimpse of a koala, but also tourists and locals in the area who are keen to explore the Great Koala National Park in more depth.