ECO TOURISM: Concept plans to construct horse riding and bushwalking trails as part of the ambitious Great Koala National Park proposal will be unveiled this weekend.
ECO TOURISM: Concept plans to construct horse riding and bushwalking trails as part of the ambitious Great Koala National Park proposal will be unveiled this weekend. Luka Kauzlaric

Koala park could bring $300m into Coffs

CONCEPT plans to construct horse riding and bushwalking trails on the Mid North Coast as part of the ambitious Great Koala National Park proposal will be unveiled this weekend.

The GKNP proposal, which encompasses 315,000ha of koala habitat in the Coffs Harbour hinterland, could potentially bring more than $300million into the local economy.

It would be the first park dedicated to conserving rapidly dwindling koala populations, National Parks Association of NSW senior ecologist Dr Oisin Sweeney said.

"We really think there is potentially enormous benefits as it would attract so many national and international tourists,” Dr Sweeney said.

"Not only would the park bring in $300-million extra income into Coffs Harbour but there's also direct employment benefits and we see a real opportunity for indirect employment through the establishment of new businesses taking advantage of the offerings.

"It would also greatly benefit the smaller regional communities in the area by putting in the new infrastructure.”

The vulnerable species in NSW survive in fragmented habitats, with the population having shrunk by a quarter over 20 years.

The Great Koala National Park proposal map.
The Great Koala National Park proposal map. National Parks Association

Dr Sweeney said the GKNP proposal encompasses an important piece of land containing the habitats of two meta-populations.

"We think of this park as an enormous first step in koala conservation.”

"We obtained some data through Freedom of Information which identified koala hubs, which are basically areas occupied by koalas over a certain length of time.

"What the data showed was that it really is the most important piece of public land for koalas at the moment.

"The park is a first step but it's a really, really important one.”

Dr Sweeney will be speaking at the launch of the concept plans at Bowraville this Saturday.

The free event, which also includes the screening of two short films and a Q&A session, will be held at Bowraville Theatre from 3pm.