THIS week saw the turning of the first sod in the building process of the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary at One Mile Beach.
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At the ceremony which signifies the end of planning, and the beginning of the future, Worimi Elder Uncle Neville Lilly gave a Welcome to Country which was followed by a moving and cleansing smoking ceremony performed by Worimi man Lee Ridgeway.
Fittingly, sanctuary means, a place where someone fleeing persecution comes to feel safe, the hope is that injured and sick koalas will find a safe place at the new Koala Sanctuary.
Member for Port Stephens, Kate Washington told News Of The Area, “I am so excited for Port Stephens Koalas, the volunteers came to me before all this started, they said; that they wanted to stop the Koalas in Port Stephens from becoming extinct and we have a plan.”
The volunteers presented plans and gained funding through Kate Washington’s office.
“This provided the seed funding to get the ball rolling, and to see the culmination of this here today is very, very exciting,” she said.
Minister for the Environment, the Honorable Member of Parliament , Matt Kean was present for the history making event.
The NSW Government has made a significant investment in the Koala Sanctuary and Minister for the Environment Matt Kean stated that “Before European settlement the koala populations on the East Coast of Australia were abundant, and the remaining population is under threat and we need to make sure that this population thrives now and into the future, this is the start of that initiative.
“This project is part of a strategy that will see this iconic and much loved animal survive,” he said.
In his address Mayor Ryan Palmer recognised the link between tourism at the Port Stephens Koala Sanctuary and ongoing funding of the sanctuary’s work.
He also recognised the contribution of volunteers and Port Stephens Council staff who helped make the new facility possible.
Carmel Northwood, President of Port Stephens Koalas told News Of The Area, “I’m very happy that the Minister and dignitaries have come to mark the beginning of the work at the sanctuary.”
Carmel is not sure when the gates will open to the public for this initiative however she is hopeful that some of the permanent care koalas will move into the new sanctuary area this summer.
Mayor Ryan Palmer said, “It is great to see this project coming together with the sod turning for stages 1 and 2 of the Koala Sanctuary… it will be great for the koala population of Port Stephens and great for tourism as the sanctuary will attract people to the area, and keep people here a little bit longer.”
It is saving to your mobile phone the new rescue number for Port Stephens Koalas 1800 PS KOALAS ( 1800 775 625).
By Marian SAMPSON