$500,000 over two years
Flora and Fauna
A $500,000 impact investment loan has started the ball rolling for an important social enterprise and conservation project on the Great Ocean Road near Apollo Bay.
The loan from the Ross Trust to the Conservation Ecology Centre in the Otways, went towards the purchase of the 20-hectare property running from the road to the sea, five minutes west of Apollo Bay.
The site will be the home of Wildlife Wonders, an eco-tourism attraction which will both engage Impact investment to boost Wildlife Wonders visitors and generate ongoing funding for conservation in the region.
Lizzie Corke, CEO of the Conservation Ecology Centre, says Wildlife Wonders is critical from a number of perspectives – social, economic and environmental.
“The Great Ocean Road is the most visited nature-based destination in Australia and currently there are very few facilitated or curated experiences in nature.”
Planning permits have been awarded and work has started on planting and the creation of natural pathways, which will enable visitors to experience the beauty of the natural surrounds, learning about conservation as they go.
To give some sense of the visual splendor planned, the Conservation Ecology Centre has engaged Brian Massey – the Greensmaster for The Lord of the Rings films and Art Director of the Hobbit films – as Creative Director for Wildlife Wonders. He will build on his reputation as the landscape designer for New Zealand’s successful Hobbiton, to develop a guided walk through spectacular bushland, to see wildlife living naturally. Conservationist guides will lead the walks, with an educational focus on the conservation programs and species people can see around them.
Invisible to the visitors, but very effective, will be a predator-proof fence to keep out foxes and cats, enabling small native mammals to thrive.
“Wildlife Wonders will play a key role in slowing down the normal Great Ocean Road trip helping visitors to connect with the area, extending their stay and spend,” Lizzie said.
As visitors come to Wildlife Wonders, all surplus funds will be paid as a conservation distribution to the Conservation Ecology Centre, funding further conservation and research right across the Otways.
“Generating reliable and sustainable funding allows us to invest in conservation in a way we’ve never been able to before, increasing the breadth and depth of scientific research and improving the viability and resilience of threatened species populations,” Lizzie said.
“The flow-on benefits of secure employment – estimated at 35 full time jobs – strengthens the community and increases the economic benefit.
“Often there are challenges in finding funding for long term or innovative conservation projects or salaries in conservation. The sustainability of a business-based approach means we can plan effective long-term programs.”
A subsequent commitment of $2 million from the Commonwealth Government and $1.5 million from the Victorian State Government will build on some of the important first steps towards this project taken when funders like the Ross Trust took the initial leap of faith.
All going to plan, Wildlife Wonders will open to the public in late 2019.