The concept of a Great Koala National Park has been floated for some five years now and recently has been adopted as a policy objective at State level by the ALP and the Greens.
By the Editor.
It is proposed that it stretch from near Kempsey in the south to approximately equal to Woolgoolga in the north and that it be a park that actively encourages day and multi-day walking and biking trips with overnight stays within its boundaries.
It is also proposed that it link via cross promotions with existing tourist attractions such as the Marine National Park and the wonderful new Tree Tops Walk at Sealy Point.
Indeed it is being proposed as a genuinely unique National Park that will not only feature one of Australia’s strongest koala catchment areas but also showcase pristine areas that apparently contain some of the tallest native trees on the mainland and possibly in Australia as a whole.
These added together have the potential to make the park a draw card for both national and international tourists and to give the region’s tourist and support industries a real boost if it were to become reality.
Unfortunately the proposal has become mired in politics, especially in relation to the current State Government’s proposed forestry policies. The Minister for Roads, Maritime and Safety and State Member for Oxley, Melinda Pavey, (pictured below) wrote an opinion piece for the Bellingen Courier-Sun on 28 June calling the proposal ‘spin’. Her article lead to counter claims from local conservationists that the Minister was leading a ‘scare campaign’ and that her opinion piece was ‘a shovelful of hubris’.
All of this makes for great fire, smoke and theatrics but does it in any way help shine a light on the potential of the proposed park?
A very rough estimate can be arrived at in relation to what the proposed park might conservatively be worth economically to our region.
In 1995 the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service released a report into the “Economic Value of Recreational use: Gibraltar Range and Dorrigo National Parks.” It showed that the economic value of those Parks then was approximately $90m a year. In fact an erratum in the report highlighted their original estimate was too conservative and that $90m was nearer the mark. In 2018 dollars that equals $148,576,771.65. Let’s say $150m a year.
Since that report was done major improvements have been made to those Parks and visitor numbers have increased as a result. So $150m is probably a conservative figure in 2018.
The proposed Great Koala National Park (GKNP) is three to four times the size of the Gibraltar Range and Dorrigo National Parks although it would incorporate them. It is designed to draw tourists for longer stays and to spend greater amounts of time and money in our region. It has the potential to be regionally, nationally and internationally significant and as such is just the sort of thing that the Chamber of Commerce and local tourism associations need to try and induce airlines to make the Coffs Coast an international destination.
It is not unrealistic, given the above sum of $150m for the Gibraltar Range and Dorrigo National Parks, to say that a ‘back of the envelope calculation’ is that the GKNP could conservatively be worth $300m a year to the region’s economy. The potential flow on benefits to tourism and other support industries across the State as a whole should not be underestimated either.
So not only would crucial flora and fauna be saved but also they would be open to the public to be admired and interacted with in a sustainably managed way that would also potentially be a major socio-economic boost.
Clearly a far more thorough cost/benefit analysis needs to be done than the figures presented above. Indeed such an analysis should be done. It should take into account what the GKNP would mean for all affected industries, including logging.
But a blanket ‘No’ to the idea of the GKNP is in no one’s interests on the Coffs Coast and in the long run it is not in the interest of the current State Government either as it needs the region the GKNP will cover to thrive.
Editors note (13-7-18): I have been advised that the Gibraltar Range and Dorrigo NP’s are not actually planned to be within the GKNP but to compliment it with the provision of a diverse range of recreation opportunities .
Also the proposed long distance walking track will not be confined to the GKNP and will also pass through significant sections of New England and Dorrigo National Parks too. All of which I believe makes the $300m potential figure even more conservative than I originally thought.