Recent bushfire events across the nation have further decimated already threatened koala colonies. Only yesterday the NSW Government reported that “24% of koala habitat in eastern NSW had been scorched, a number that could rise given 41% of wet sclerophyll forests have been hit with closer assessment.”
Koala habitats locally have been affected. “5 out of the 14 koala sub-populations within the proposed Great Koala National Park (GKNP) have been burnt or partly burnt. Four of the sub- populations burnt were relatively large areas away from the coast each with an estimate of up to 500 or 1000 koalas,” says Ashley Love of Bellingen Environment Centre.
The time is ripe to establish the Great Koala National Park on the mid north coast. “Koalas have been declining for many years and estimated to possibly go extinct in the wild in the next twenty years unless strong conservation measures are taken,” says Ashley.
Ashley why is the creation of the Great Koala National Park so important?
The situation is dire. The fires on Kangaroo Island resulted in most of the Koala habitat being burnt and 30,000 koalas are estimated to have been killed. As a result of these fires the koala colony running between Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca Heads is now the most significant colony of wild koalas across the Nation.
The proposed Great Koala National Park is based on conserving public lands in two of the nine koala meta–populations on the North Coast of NSW. (The two koala meta-populations being Coffs Harbour – Guy Fawkes and Bellinger, Nambucca- Macleay meta-populations).
Will the creation of the Great Koala National Park have other benefits for the region?
‘Koala Tourism’ has been estimated as being worth $2million pa and with considerable potential for expansion, it has been estimated that this amount could grow to an additional $300m for the region in additional tourism revenue.
The Bellingen Environment Centre is hoping that the Parliamentary Inquiry will fully support the Great National Koala Park to provide a real chance for restoration and recovery of koalas. With these protections in place, local coastal communities affected by loss of nature tourism, will have the potential to thrive because of the countless tourism opportunities directly related to the GNKP.
How can the community show their support for the GKNP?
Today (February 4th) seven Upper House NSW Parliamentarians are visiting our area to continue the inquiry into koalas and koala habitat. This provides an opportunity for the public to show their support for our nationally significant koala populations following the recent devastating bush fires.
We would like to extend an invitation to the public to share a picnic breakfast and mingle with the politicians who will start the day with a visit to the Great National Koala Park Centre, situated in the Visitors Information Centre at Giinagay Way Urunga 0830-10.00am.
Later that day at the Rainbow Room, Cex Coffs Harbour at 1pm, the Inquiry will convene to hear from local people interested and involved in koala management. This formal Inquiry will take evidence about Koala welfare and their habitat from Gumbaynggirr Nation Representatives, local ecologists, and from representatives from Local Councils as part of an ongoing inquiry into the Health and ongoing Welfare of our iconic and diminishing koala colonies across the Nation.