Thursday, April 25, 2024

Queensland operator abandons Gunnedah koala sanctuary

The operators of Gunnedah’s Koala Sanctuary have abandoned the project citing the “huge toll” the COVID-19 pandemic has taken on the Australian tourism industry.

Gunnedah Shire Council said it had received notification from tourism operator The CaPTA Group that it was withdrawing from the project.

The CaPTA Group, which is based in Far North Queensland, advised Council it had “no choice” but to withdraw, but wished Gunnedah Shire Council every success with the project.

Gunnedah Shire Mayor, Jamie Chaffey said while the news was disappointing, the Koala Sanctuary project would continue for Gunnedah.

“The tourism industry has faced enormous challenges during this pandemic, and we understand the need for operators to concentrate on their existing attractions,” Mayor Chaffey said.

“We have been lucky enough to have the ear and advice of this very experienced tourism group during the critical design phase of our Koala Sanctuary, and we intend to continue with progress on this important project. The development application was lodged with the NSW Government in February and when it is approved, we are poised to start on the next part of the project.

“Our intention is to look at alternate arrangements for its operation. We can’t say at this stage what that will look like, but it does give us the opportunity to look at all kinds of options.

“We remain committed to this project, and excited about what it will mean for both the region’s koala population, and for Gunnedah.”

The planned Gunnedah Koala Sanctuary is located on a 50-acre bushland site on the Oxley Highway, and includes a koala hospital and sanctuary. About 10,000 trees have already been planted for use as food trees at plantation sites for the koalas.

The Gunnedah Koala Sanctuary project secured $6.48 million through the NSW Government’s Regional Social Benefit Infrastructure Fund. Council has also applied for $1.75 million through the Federal Government’s Building Better Regions Fund to allow the full project to proceed as soon as possible.

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