Concerned community members flock to Great Koala National Park Forum

MORE than 100 members of the public attended the Great Koala National Park (GKNP) public forum, sponsored by the NSW National Parks Association, on Thursday 28 April at the Norm Jordan Pavilion at the Coffs Harbour Showgrounds.

In attendance were three guest speakers and three candidates in the upcoming Federal election who listened, shared their policies, and took questions from the audience.

The MC for the forum, Gary Dunnett, President of the NSW National Parks Association (NPA), gave an outline of the historical advocacy work of the Association in establishing National Parks in NSW and local NPA member, James Sherwood, outlined the Association’s support for the GKNP proposal.

Renowned North Coast conservationist Dailan Pugh highlighted the added benefits of a GKNP for protection of other threatened species, the enhanced quality and quantity of local water supply and the superior carbon capture and storage capabilities of forests.

Local nature-based tourism operator, Graham Tupper, shared a passionate vision of the long term economic, social, recreational and educational opportunities the proposal could provide for this region, citing examples from his personal experience of other regions of Australia and overseas.

The future unsustainability of native forest logging and its impact on threatened species was raised, with one concerned local Karangi resident who adjoins a native plantation forest flagged for imminent clear-felling being alarmed about the resident koalas.

Renowned local ecologist Mark Graham also shared his passion for the extraordinary forests and ecosystems on the Coffs Coast.

He said they must be understood, appreciated and preserved if our quality of life on the planet is to be truly sustainable.

Mr Graham told NOTA, “The reality is that we need many more conservation reserves if we are to preserve koalas and other endangered species.

“We are, sadly, seeing, day in, day out, ongoing destruction of koala habitat within the proposed Great Koala National Park.”

He pointed to significant koala habitat being destroyed at Wedding Bells State Forest in recent months.

Three of the candidates for Cowper in Saturday’s Federal Election, Independent Caz Heise, Liberal Democrat Simon Chaseling and Greens candidate Tim Nott, all provided an insight into their election platforms and took questions from the interested public.

Several other candidates provided written statements.

Mr Graham said it is encouraging that candidates are recognising the importance of protecting koala habitat, although he was dismayed that the sitting Federal member was unable to attend.

The audience acknowledged the work of Ashley Love, the local architect of the original GKNP concept, for his ongoing work in developing the original proposal.

By Andrew VIVIAN

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