The first stage of a proposed $3 million Koala Sanctuary was unveiled this morning at a ceremony at Treescape, One Mile.

Stage one of the sanctuary involves the construction of koala rehabilitation pens, which will allow local volunteers to care for koalas locally, rather than having to transport them to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

Port Stephens Koalas project manager, Ron Land, said previously, the group have had to either release sick or injured koalas prematurely, transport them to Port Macquarie for further care, or in some cases, euthanise them.

“It gives us now a range of options that we have never had before. Just the transferring of an ill or injured koala to Port Macquarie is very stressful for the koala and did not always have a happy outcome.

“We are able to now, and it is very important for local koalas that they continue to eat the leaf from their local area because their digestive system is very highly tuned and obviously any koala transferred outside of the area is fed the leaf from the Mid-North Coast which is not the same as the leaf they have been reared on here,” Mr Land said.

Former NSW Premier Mike Baird announced $124,000 allocated from the Community Building Program for stage one of the project.

Mr Land said together with Council, Port Stephens Koalas have applied to the State Government for an additional $3 million in funding which, if secured will see stage two commence.

“This will include the construction of the hospital buildings as well as a state-of-the-art eco-tourism facility where people will be able to come and see the koalas in their natural environment whilst we carry on our work within the hospital and various parts of the facility,” Mr Land said.

Port Stephens Mayor Ryan Palmer says the region is home to one of the last remaining koala populations on the east coast, so it is important to protect them.

Photo: Jarrod Melmeth