Far north Queensland tourism company the CaPTA Group will run the new Gunnedah koala park and hospital, Gunnedah Shire Council has decided.
The council voted to enter into negotiations with the group at an extraordinary council meeting held last night.
"We're looking forward to negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the CaPTA Group and planning the next steps forward which include, firstly, considering the needs of the community and identifying an appropriate site," Gunnedah mayor Jamie Chaffey said.
"Importantly, the facility would also include a koala hospital to help battle the many threats faced by our koala population."
The council's director corporate and community services Colin Formann said "attracting a company of the calibre of the CaPTA Group is a real win for Gunnedah".
"The company is a powerhouse of tourism and conservation ... and they have a history of being socially responsible, contributing significantly to their local community operating a non-profit wildlife rescue center, and caring for koalas as part of their existing operation," Mr Formann said.
The koala park project was awarded $6.48 million in June 2018 through the state government's Regional Social Benefit Infrastructure Fund.
Cr Chaffey said this "milestone" gave him confidence of future progression with a "quality operator that is well established and has much to offer".
"The park will be a wonderful addition to the shire, both in terms of tourism, the economy and in helping protect the iconic animal that has become synonymous with Gunnedah. This park ensures we keep our title as the Koala Capital of the World."
The CaPTA Group currently owns and operates a number of internationally acclaimed wildlife and conservation-based tourism attractions in Cairns and Port Douglas such as Rainforestation Nature Park, the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary, and Wildlife Habitat Port Douglas.