The Cowarra State Forest Tourism precinct is a step closer to reality with the official release of a master plan for the future development of the area.
Member for Port Macquarie, Leslie Williams said $2.1 million from the NSW Government's Regional Growth - Environment and Tourism Fund and financial contributions from the project partners will boost tourism in the local region.
"The precinct will become an important facility for the rehabilitation and breeding of wild koalas and will showcase local Biripi culture," Mrs Williams said.
"A Wildnets treetops experience and elevated walks are planned through the canopy, allowing visitors to be able to view koalas in their natural environment. Visitors will learn the importance of living sustainably to reduce their carbon footprint, and how to contribute to minimise the effects of climate change.
"Stunning north coast hardwood timber, the ultimate renewable building product, will be utilised throughout the precinct," Mrs Williams said.
Professor Ken McBryde, a renowned Australian and International Architect and his team at Architectural Physics, have developed the masterplan.
It is the result of six months planning with project partners Forestry Corporation of New South Wales, Koala Conservation Australia, Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council and Wildnets Australia.
The masterplan reflects the shared vision all the partners have for the site. Leading physicist Professor James Murray-Parkes will assist in delivering the innovative designs, including a rammed earth and timber feature wall designed by University of Newcastle Architecture students.
The precinct, west of Port Macquarie off Burrawan Forest Drive, will become an important venture for employment and training for local Aboriginal people.
Amos Donovon, CEO Bunyah Local Aboriginal Land Council said the precinct will showcase the culture and heritage of the Biripi people, sharing traditional knowledge of the land and how to best manage forests for the future.
Koala Conservation Australia (Port Macquarie Koala Hospital) President Sue Ashton said "the future of koalas is in our hands".
"This precinct will be the first ever conservation breeding facility for koalas which will be returned to the wild while creating an iconic tourist destination that highlights the importance of sustainability, renewable resources and the role we can all play in having a low carbon footprint," Ms Ashton said.
Kathy Lyons, senior manager Stewardship Forestry Corporation of NSW said "the precinct will provide the opportunity for locals and visitors to learn about old and new land management practices".
"This will include the use of traditional Aboriginal management practices such as cultural burning in a contemporary setting, and how Forestry Corporation manages state forests for multiple benefits including recreation, conservation and the sustainable production of renewable timber which stores carbon for life," Ms Lyons said.
For Professor McBryde, being involved in the development of this masterplan has been a great privilege.
"Cowarra State Forest Tourism Precinct will teach visitors about the unique qualities of the various eucalyptus species in this location. They will learn their contribution to our modern developing world, but also the contribution they have made through history as managed by the people who first inhabited this country," he said.
"Visitors will see that life on earth is a delicate circuit of energy - of symbiotic relationships that needs to be respected by all. The intent is that when visitors leave Cowarra State Forest, the visit will have changed their outlook on the planet.
"Irreversibly, in ways we can no longer ignore. It will have taught us to see the contribution that trees make to not only the threatened koalas but also to our survival."
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