The successful Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail has secured its third year of state government flagship event funding.
Project director and driving force behind the sculpture trail, Margret Meagher said that could potentially see the event reach a higher level of funding next year.
She welcomed the $20,000 in funding for the 2020 event which will be held in September.
Ms Meagher said this year's festival had several important highlights.
"We will unveil our new sponsor - the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service - for the annual treasure hunt," she said.
"This will give our treasure hunt the theme of search and rescue.
"We are thrilled to be working with the rescue service and they have also commissioned a new sculpture which will be unveiled during the festival.
"Our second major news is the unveiling of our first big koala - standing 2.5m high," she said.
"We have been working on a big koala for the sculpture trail since we first developed the concept."
The big koala is being manufactured by a fibreglass specialist at Johns River, John Belfield.
"John actually helped produce our first round of koalas in 2014 when he was based in Sydney," Ms Meagher said.
"Since relocating to our area, he has maintained his association with us.
"The big koala will be part of our celebrations in 2020.
"He will be, essentially, a blank canvas for a three D design that promotes our local community and promotes tourism.
"This will become an iconic sculpture for our area."
This will become an iconic sculpture for our area.Margert Meagher
The home for the addition to the sculpture trail is to be determined, she said.
Mrs Meagher said the NSW government funding would help attract visitors to the Port Macquarie-Hastings to enjoy the sculpture trail and enjoy the search and rescue treasure hunt.
"It is very important that we achieve this funding because regional event funding helps our festival to develop as a regional flagship event.
"It gives us confidence to strive to achieve regional flagship status. After three years you can then look to triennial funding.
"This is a landmark result for us to achieve," she said.
The project director said the Hello Koalas Sculpture Trail is considered a unique tourism experience for the Mid-North Coast.
Deputy premier and minister for regional NSW John Barilaro said the funding is important for regional areas.
This funding will bring regional events back to life, which will not only put money in the pockets of event vendors but will be a huge morale boost for our communities at such a crucial time.John Barilaro
"This funding will bring regional events back to life, which will not only put money in the pockets of event vendors but will be a huge morale boost for our communities at such a crucial time," he said.
The state government says regional NSW is welcoming visitors back to drive spending in communities that rely on the visitor economy to support local businesses.
This year's regional event funding will support, 18 events through $20,000 annual flagship fund events grants; 12 events through $30,000 cash and in-kind triennial flagship event fund grants and 29 events through $10,000 micro event fund grants.
Go here to complete the online nomination form for the treasure hunt.
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