We know that nature is the number one reason why people want to visit Australia, and the koala is our most celebrated species. 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.
To ensure that the Great Koala National Park delivers the best possible outcomes for regional employment and visitor opportunities, the 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.