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Byron Shire
July 28, 2021

New animal hospital on the way

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Tamara Smith MP, Ninian Gemmell and a brushtail possum. Photo Jeff ‘Hello Possum’ Dawson.

Plans are now underway for a Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital, a purpose built facility that would not only help injured wildlife, but be open to the public as an educational attraction. A similar hospital exists at the Currumbin Wildlife Hospital.

Greens Ballina MP Tamara Smith announced her support for the hospital as well as Australian Seabird Rescue.

She was joined at the launch at Macadamia Castle by chairman of the board of the Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital, Ninian Gemmell, along with Dr Evan Kossack and Dr Stephan Van Mil, who are members of the Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital Veterinary committee.

Dr Van Mil told The Echo that there is already considerable financial support and land has been offered by philanthropists.

Ms Smith said, ‘The Northern Rivers is one of the most biodiversity-rich areas in Australia, but now, too many animals native to our region are threatened with extinction. Decades of bush clearing have led to habitat and wildlife loss and our marine and bird life are under threat from plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways’.

‘Right now, the rescue of our precious local wildlife depends on the pro-bono work of veterinarians and wildlife care groups, the closest dedicated veterinary treatment wildlife centre is Currumbin Wildlife Hospital, which treats over 10,000 animals a year and is on the Gold Coast, with around 3,000 cases from the Northern Rivers. We need a dedicated centre for treatment of wildlife in our region, that’s why I’m committing $3m in funding to help get the Northern Rivers Wildlife Hospital started, as well as $30,000 in funding for Australian Sea Bird Rescue to construct an aviary.’

When asked how she can guarantee the funding, she told The Echo that as a local MP, she has a say in the Community Building Partnership Grants and has facilitated $1.3m to over 50 charities and not-for-profits from these grants since elected.

‘I also donate about $30,000 per year from my salary to not-for-profits and charities,’ she added.

This story has been amended owing to it originally stating the hospital was to be also a tourist attraction.
Ninian Gemmell told Echonetdaily, ‘We do intend to offer an educational facility and viewing area so that students and small groups can observe the local wildlife being treated. Currumbin Hospital has such a facility. However we do not intend to be a tourist attraction or zoo. We will exist to treat and release injured wildlife and work with the local care groups… not to offer an attraction to the public’.

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