Port Stephens Council approves Koala hospital and tourism infrastructure

IN CARE: SES Maree, rescued by Port Stephens Koalas from the nearby Mambo Wetlands, in care at the One Mile sanctuary.

IN CARE: SES Maree, rescued by Port Stephens Koalas from the nearby Mambo Wetlands, in care at the One Mile sanctuary.

The need to upgrade the poor condition of Anna Bay's main thoroughfare, Gan Gan Road, was highlighted when councillors approved a koala hospital, extra accommodation and tourism centre at the Port Stephens Council-owned Treescape resort.

Councillors voted unanimously at a meeting on February 12 to go ahead with alterations and additions to the One Mile facility, which would include 20 new glamping tents with amenities, koala sanctuary and clinic, tourism centre, vegetation removal and car parking.

The resort is located at the One Mile end of Gan Gan Road. The shopping centre and primary school are situated at the Anna Bay end.

Cr Chris Doohan said he was concerned for the safety of motorists and pedestrian on Gan Gan Road due to the extra traffic the resort would attract. "I have real concerns for the school kids getting on and off school buses. It's important that we upgrade the infrastructure to ensure there safety."

Cr Sarah Smith expressed similar fears, saying that sections of Gan Gan Road were popular with dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and school children and the increase in traffic would present serious safety issues. “The extra traffic from tourism will severely impact the community and it is important that the roadway is upgraded.”

The unanimous decision to push ahead with the hospital project was particularly pleasing for Port Stephens Koalas, currently preparing for a $3 million fully operational hospital inside the Treescape resort.

Secretary Ron Land, who praised the unstinting efforts of the council planners, said he was particularly pleased that council staff had recommended approving the DA which was unanimously supported by the councillors.

“The approval is the culmination of three years of effort by the local koala charity group to create a koala hospital and sanctuary in Port Stephens to assist in the fight to prevent the loss of the iconic animal in the wild,” he said.

“The council has worked closely with us in planning the project ensuring the eco-tourism element of the facility provides the revenue we will need to carry out our work.”

Mr Land estimated that sanctuary, featuring four large display areas, would bring in around 100,000 tourists a year. “The hospital will be off limits to the public," he said.

"We are grateful for the support from both the state government and council but it is important for the public to understand the ongoing need for us to fundraise to ensure the hospital's viability. The daily costs of medicine, creams, etc. is never ending."

The proposed works at Treescapes comprises the construction of a tourism centre incorporating a café shop, outdoor seating, covered area, administration rooms and reception, plus amenities; installation of 20 glamping tents (with private amenities); construction of koala clinic for koalas in treatment, management and learning; car parking and alteration to internal roads; plus vegetation clearing for bushfire protection of the site.

The site, which adjoins the Tomaree National Park to the north, Middle Rock Holiday Resort to the south and rural residential dwellings to the west, has a number of constraints including; bushfire prone land, acid sulfate soils; endangered ecological communities (fresh water wetlands, swamp sclerophyll forest), in addition to koala habitat – preferred and notifiable noxious weeds. 

Work is expected to begin on the hospital project in May 2019.