Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer and NSW Minister for Energy and the Environment, the Honourable Matt Kean MP, have joined with Port Stephens Koalas to break ground on construction on the multimillion dollar Koala Sanctuary, with the facility due to open to the public in early 2020.

A partnership between Council, the NSW Government and Port Stephens Koalas, the Koala Sanctuary facility will provide facilities to care for sick and injured koalas, education and research and accommodation and experiences for tourists.

Mayor Ryan Palmer said the uniqueness of the facility would ensure its success.

“Australia boasts a $1 billion koala tourism industry and this facility also poses an exciting and profitable tourist opportunity for Council.

“Koala Sanctuary is a world-class facility and a destination in itself – one that will support Port Stephens’ reputation as one of Australia’s most desirable places to visit,” he said.

Mayor Palmer said the Koala Sanctuary formed a key part of Council’s vision.

“Supporting increased visitation is a key direction of our Community’s Strategic Plan — with Holiday Parks, dedicated events coordination, parks and gardens, and recreational facilities all part of this Council’s vision for Port Stephens over the next few years.

“Koala Sanctuary is key part of that strategy. More visitors means more jobs for locals and more money being spent in our region.”

Council’s Corporate Services Group Manager, Carmel Foster, agreed.

“What this all comes back to is economic growth and, ultimately, better outcomes for the people of Port Stephens,” she said.

Council’s Holiday Parks Section Manager, Kim Latham said construction would take place in two stages.

“Stage one of the construction will see the creation of the koala compounds and elevated boardwalk, along with pathways, internal access roads and car parking to support tourist vehicles

“Stage two will see the koala clinic and tourism centre come to life,” Ms Latham said.

Mayor Ryan Palmer has thanked all involved.

“From Council staff, to our partners at Port Stephens Koalas and their wonderful volunteers, the NSW Government and the entire community, this project wouldn’t have been possible without a dedication to working together for the benefit of this species and our region – thank you all for your continued support,” he said.