A long-held vision for a koala hospital and tourism facility in Port Stephens could be realised under a partnership between the Hunter Koala Preservation Society and Port Stephens Council.
Port Stephens Council will consider a recommendation to approve $64,000 for a feasibility study into the co-location of a koala hospital and tourist facility at its meeting on Tuesday, as well as confirm a financial contribution from the Hunter Koala Preservation Society.
The centre would be located at Treescape Camping & Accommodation at One Mile.
It would also be a research base for visiting veterinary and environmental specialists from the Universities of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong to conduct further studies into cryptococcosis and chlamydia, two diseases that are ravaging Port Stephens koalas.
Mayor of Port Stephens Bruce MacKenzie said Council officers had been working with the Hunter Koala Preservation Society to develop the concept, and had now reached the stage to seriously pursue its viability.
"The concept has a number of obvious benefits, most importantly for the wellbeing of the existing koala population for animals requiring treatment and care, and boosting local numbers to ensure koalas continue to have a presence in Port Stephens into the future," he said.
"It will also be a wonderful asset for our area, and particularly Treescape, as an added string to our tourism bow.
"There is a similar operation at Port Macquarie that is one of the State's most visited attractions and there is no reason we can't achieve the same result, particularly under a partnership between Council and the Hunter Koala Preservation Society."
Glenn Bunny, Council's Property Services Section Manager, said the feasibility study would calculate the cost of setting up the facility.
"If Council agrees with the recommendation, the feasibility study would look at the integration of the centre into the operation of the current Treescape, as well as the business case and forward planning we'd need to put together to progress the project," he said.
"It would also consider what marketing opportunities are available to us and what target markets we need to consider.
"We envisage the study would take four to six weeks to complete with a further report to come back to Council."
Hunter Koala Preservation Society president Carmel Northwood said the tourism component would help to fund the ongoing operation of the hospital.
The society would supply rehabilitation yards, a rescue van and other equipment, as well as coordinate volunteers at the hospital.
"There is no existing centralised facility in Port Stephens that can adequately accommodate animals that require medium to long term care or shelter displaced animals as a result of natural disaster," Ms Northwood said.
"Simply put, Port Stephens koalas will not survive in the wild if the hospital is not built for treatment and breeding purposes.
"Hunter Koala Preservation Society is hopeful this centre would promote wider community involvement and respect for wildlife, to ensure the survival of the local koala population."
Hunter Koala Preservation Society is interested in hearing from people who want to be involved in the project, including building fences, cleaning out cages, conducting walk and talk tours or helping with administration and promotion. Contact Ron Land on 0401 727 795.
Keep up to date with the progress at Treescape.