Koala boost in Queensland after money swap for research

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Key koala habitats in southeastern Queensland will be protected from development after it emerged that money earmarked for a research center had been spent on a roller coaster at an amusement park.

A four square kilometer site on the Gold Coast will become a Specially Protected Area after the state government raises it for $24 million.

“We have already identified about 98 koalas in that protected area,” Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk told TBEN television on Tuesday.

“We know that the Gold Coast is a growing city, and we also know that land developments are taking place around Pimpama and Coomera, and this means that our furry friends … will be protected forever.”

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The announcement follows a hearing last week on budget estimates, which revealed that $2.7 million in public funding earmarked for a wildlife research center at Dreamworld was instead spent on a roller coaster.

Ms Palaszczuk said the Gold Coast theme park had chosen to redirect the money as it recovered from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I hope that Dreamworld will now do the right thing and that they will invest their own money in that project that they talked about with the tourism department,” she said.

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“Both are a great added attraction for Dreamworld.”

Tourism Minister Stirling Hinchliffe told the hearing last week that Dreamworld requested that the project be suspended while it focused on reinvestment in 2020.

In an effort to kickstart the tourism industry, the government has launched the $25 million Growing Tourism Infrastructure Fund to accelerate the recovery from COVID-19.

“In that fund, we saw Dreamworld seeking help to support and build a new multi-launch roller coaster,” said Mr. Hinchliffe.

Dreamworld was given the green light to “reuse” the funding.

The newly purchased property in Pimpama is one of the largest suitable land positions near the Coomera Connector or the “second M1” road project.

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“Securing the land demonstrates our commitment to improving the environmental outcomes of the construction of the second M1,” said Ms Palaszczuk.

“Koalas found in the second M1 corridor are moved to a nearby habitat, or the Pimpama River Conservation Area, as necessary.”

The additional land is adjacent to the conservation area, creating a combined area of ​​nearly 9 square kilometers to protect the local koala population.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey said the second M1 was the largest road project in Queensland and minimizing environmental impact was a priority.

– MONKEY