Gunnedah Shire Council resolved at last night’s Ordinary Meeting to proceed to apply for state funding for the establishment of a world-class Koala Park and Education Centre in Gunnedah.
Council was shortlisted after providing an Expression of Interest for funding from the NSW Government’s Rebuilding NSW Program for the establishment of the park and was encouraged to apply for the grant.
The Program’s Regional Growth – Environment and Tourism Fund aims to increase tourism visitation by investing in regional environment and tourism infrastructure, particularly focusing on assets that will grow and further diversify NSW regional economies and with the potential to create new jobs.
Council moved at the meeting to allocate a budget of up to $80,000 to develop a feasibility study, business case and application for the grant program.
Gunnedah Shire has created a reputation and brand as ‘The Koala Capital of the World’ and following the devastating closure of Waterways Wildlife Park, a significant gap was left in the Gunnedah tourism offering. Council remains supportive of efforts by the Waterways Wildlife Park to reopen but will continue to investigate all available options to fill the gap left by the closure.
During consultation for the Community Strategic Plan (CSP), the community listed furthering economic development and tourism in the region as high priorities. Retaining Gunnedah’s ‘Koala Capital of the World’ status and promoting the Shire both nationally and internationally were also identified as key objectives by the community.
“Ratepayers have told us what they want, and that is for Council to look forward and plan for the future,” Gunnedah Shire Mayor Jamie Chaffey said.
“The iconic koala has become synonymous with Gunnedah and helps to shape our local identity. It’s really important for people to be able to see a koala when they come to the Koala Capital. It is not only a huge drawcard for our region but has the potential to play a huge role in our economy.”
If the project is funded, the Centre could exhibit koalas and other native animals, operate as a wildlife park and a native animal hospital with a kiosk on site. The park could also provide an important local educational service for schools throughout the region.
The Koala Park and Education Centre project has the potential to attract a major partner, such as Australia Zoo or Taronga Zoo, and could be a world class tourist attraction.
The project is in a very early conceptual and exploratory phase but if selected to receive grant funding could be a game changer for economic development and tourism in the area.
At this stage, there aren’t any specific plans for location or building design and these details will continue to develop if the project progresses, in close consultation with the community and key stakeholders.
Media Contact: Ashley Gardner (02) 6740 2100.