Newton Denny Chapelle's site plan for Friends of the Koala.
Newton Denny Chapelle's site plan for Friends of the Koala. Cathryn McLauchlan

Construction to start on new koala tourist centre in Lismore

A NEW educational and tourist facility promoting and preserving Northern Rivers wildlife is weeks away from construction.

Friends of the Koala were granted just over $78,000 by the Federal Government to build the centre next to their current centre on Rifle Range Rd, East Lismore.

It will include an administration department, bathroom, a kitchen for functions and the purpose-built education facility.

The organisation's vice president, Roslyn Irwin, said it will free up the existing building to care exclusively for koalas.

"At the moment if you visited the care centre, it's a small building with three treatment rooms,” she said.

"The koalas requiring treatment are there, volunteers are there, admin, tours are done from there, so it's really not been the best situation for the koalas or the organisation.”

She said the organisation will be promoting the centre as a tourist destination.

"We're anticipating having the educational part of it kitted out so we can do a whole range of educational activities in there.”

Dr Irwin said the upgrade was needed now more than ever due to a higher number of koalas in their care.

The organisation's care coordinator, Susannah Keogh, wrote in their December Treetops newsletter "during an average year we usually see 300 koalas - as I write this (just before Christmas), we are up to 285 koalas since July”.

Dr Irwin said that number has since reached 300.

Friends of the Koala members expect the final component of the development application, the construction certificate, to be completed next week.

The National Stronger Regions Fund was offered in three rounds to projects that delivered economic benefit and addressed disadvantage.

In their grant application, a Friends of the Koala representative said the upgrade would "improve the organisation's capacity to promote the complex as an educational tourism experience and tourism destination ... (and) it will extend the range of skills we can offer to Centrelink clients and potential volunteers”.



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