THE NSW government has paid tribute to the memory of Gunnedah’s beloved koala-carer Nancy Small in its announcement of a new koala park and education centre in the NSW Budget.
The $6.48m “new generation” facility removes any questions marks over whether the city still holds the title of koala capital of the world.
Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said Gunnedah had a long history with koalas, much of which had been built on the hard work of Ms Small, who passed away in August last year.
“We owe it to Nancy and her family to continue her legacy,” Mr Anderson said.
“The new park is expected to result in the creation of 20 full-time equivalent jobs, while attracting an estimated 90,000 visitors to the region every year.
“Our region continues to grow and I am dedicated to capitalising on our regional growth and tourism opportunities to build a better Gunnedah.”
Deputy Premier John Barilaro said Gunnedah was synonymous with koalas, which is why the announcement was so important for the local community.
“Not only do we want to protect koalas in the Gunnedah area, but we also want to grow tourism opportunities in the area which is why this funding will make a real difference in Gunnedah,” Mr Barilaro said.
“Quite simply, if you’re are going to carry the title of koala capital of the world, you need a facility to match.
“Funding an inland centre will complement similar coastal facilities, ensuring that Koalas across the state are cared for.”
Gunnedah Wires’ volunteer Martine Moran said while the local community would no doubt welcome the news, the “region's koalas will be celebrating most of all”.
“It’s lovely they have acknowledged Nancy because she did do so much for our wildlife,” Ms Moran said.
She hopes there is a rehabilitation centre or hospital include within the centre.
“If there’s no medical centre in place within this new facility, I'm not sure it will help save our koalas,” she said.
“If the Deputy Premier is saying they are going to be cared for in a similar way to what is happening on the coast then that will be encouraging.”