Businesses support the Great Koala National Park

Louis Riley, co-owner of the Emerald Beach General Store, presents former Member of the Legislative Council, Catherine Cussack with an open letter signed by 65 local businesses in favour of the proposal for creating the Great Koala National Park.

AN open letter signed by 65 Coffs Coast businesses in support of the proposal for creating The Great Koala National Park (GKNP) was presented to former Member of the Legislative Council, Catherine Cussack by co-owner of the Emerald Beach General Store, Louis Riley on Friday, 28 October, preceding The Vanishing Conference on Saturday, 29 October. 

The formal handover took place at a meet and greet attended by local stakeholders and landowners, at which Catherine Cussack shared her support for the GKNP.

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Catherine was joined by Greens Member of the Legislative Council Sue Higginson, Coffs Harbour Deputy Mayor Sally Townley and Labor’s endorsed candidate for the state elections, Councillor Tony Judge, who each gave their commitment to move, shake and urge the government to bring the proposal to reality.

The panel and guests heard from property owner Rob Thomas from Valery, wildlife tour operator Grahame Tupper and Louis Riley who shared their research, experience and feedback on how the government can best work with private landholders and local businesses.

President of National Parks Association Coffs Coast Branch, Dr Grahame Douglas, MC’d the presentations and a question-and-answer session.

Louis Riley told News Of The Area, “My presentation expressed the desire many businesses in the area have to see a sustainable industry providing jobs and tourist trade established in our region.

“The work has been done.

“The reports have been shared.

“There is a bounty of evidence supporting the environmental benefits and the economic benefits the GKNP will bring…harbouring growth for decades to come.”

Besides the strong belief the business community has that this is a wise and hugely beneficial investment for the state to make in our region, there is also a widely shared community sentiment that it is the right and ethical decision to make at this crucial point of our region’s growth.

“There’s important ecological spaces being cleared for housing, intensive farming and timber production all along our coast, while this supports some industry it can’t be denied that the economic health of our entire region depends on the health and abundance of our natural environment, the health of our waterways, beaches and native wildlife,” said Louis.

The business owners urge that as a region renowned for its astounding natural beauty, it is important that alongside growth, the Coffs Coast must have a focus on preservation and conservation so it can remain beautiful for decades ahead.

Wildlife guide Graham Tupper offered his support for the Great Koala National Park, seeing it as good for local businesses and great for the conservation of a priceless asset for this region, our natural environment, which is now core to our new Eco-Destination tourism status.

Graham reflected on how popular his past wildlife tour business became in Canberra for visitors from overseas and interstate because the tours featured encounters with koalas living in their natural habitat.

“The potential for wildlife tours in the Coffs region and hinterland is enormous,” Graham added.

Now a volunteer guide at the Botanic Garden in Coffs Harbour, Graham observed that the ‘Nightlife Wildlife’ tours offered by the fauna team of the Friends of the Garden had become so popular they usually sell out in advance, so more tours are having to be scheduled.

“We usually see possums and gliders and other little critters on the tours and sometimes a koala high in the trees above the main path.

“During the day it is not uncommon to see a koala sleeping in the tree near a path, as happened when a group from the garden clubs visited the Botanic Garden last Thursday.”

Referring to the open letter being signed by 65 local business owners, Dr Grahame Douglas said, “This demonstrates the depth of local support for the concept.

“Securing a future for koalas and their habitats is not just about conservation, it is also about supporting all of the businesses and jobs that rely upon the amazing natural landscapes of this region.

“Research by Newcastle University predicts the Great Koala National Park will inject an extra $1.2 billion into the region and create 9,800 extra jobs over fifteen years.

“The majority of businesses that NPA has liaised with understand the tourism benefits that the park would create, as well as the moral importance of protecting koala habitat for the next generation.”

Private landholder Rob Thomas said rural landholders might benefit from The Great Koala National Park, such as by caring for essential wildlife corridor habitat in exchange for payment for looking after the ecosystem.

While the proposed park comprises public land, there is an opportunity to ensure private land also enhances habitat protection for our iconic koalas.

“If created tomorrow, the park would protect three nationally significant koala populations, protecting an astonishing 20 percent of NSW’s koala habitat, all within our local region,” said Grahame.


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