Makepeace Island owners Brett Godfrey and Sir Richard Branson.
Makepeace Island owners Brett Godfrey and Sir Richard Branson. Contributed

Branson launches fundraiser to save Coast koalas

CONSERVATIONIST and businessman Sir Richard Branson is throwing open the doors to his Makepeace Island resort on the Noosa River for a $250 a head fundraiser to help save local koalas.

"Animal conservation is one of my greatest passions," Sir Richard said.

"I wholeheartedly believe that protecting endangered species is one of the most important things any of us can do."

The September 30 fundraiser for the Richard Branson Koala Conservancy, which does not list Sir Richard as attending, is a joint initiative with island co-owner Brett Godfrey.

"We felt compelled to act given the dire state of koalas in the region and with this in mind, we have offered my family's Australian home, Makepeace Island, as a central site for koala research," Sir Richard said.

Mr Godfrey said: "We believe we all have a responsibility to help to protect the koala.

"More work is required to clearly understand why numbers have declined to crisis levels in the Noosa region.

"By working with koala experts and other stakeholders over the longer term, we are committed to support reversing the downward trend," he said.

"Makepeace Island will serve as a base for scientific koala research projects given its proximity to koala habitat along the Noosa River catchment."

Koala experts Professor Peter Timms, of the University of the Sunshine Coast and Dr Jon Hanger, managing director of Endeavour Veterinary Ecology Pty Ltd will lead the program will head up the conservancy's advisory board.

Sir Richard and Mr Godfrey will fund a five-year grants program to focus on mitigating koala mortality, with an emphasis on koala health, as well as investigating areas within the Noosa region, for its suitability as long-term koala refuge.

One hundred percent of proceeds from the luncheon will be directed to ongoing research and the board will encourage "a multi-disciplinary approach to local koala effort" working collaboratively with government, as well as scientific and community groups.

State Environment Minister Dr Steven Miles said: "Like Sir Richard and Brett, the Queensland Government takes the protection of the State's iconic and much loved koalas very seriously.

"The Sunshine Coast is an area where we'd really welcome a koala refuge.

"Not only are we offering our support, but we have been approached to make available the government's scientific expertise and information regarding koalas, which we will gladly do," Dr Miles said.

'Save the Koala' fundraising luncheon tickets and bookings are available online at www.makepeaceisland.com. Event patrons will experience an exclusive island tour, indulge in seafood stations and wines and be entertained by XFactor stars 'Soulcutz'.

Mr Godfrey, Dr Miles, Prof Timms and Dr Hanger will address the luncheon and ticket holders will receive a special invitation to return to the island for an update on the program.

Makepeace Island is 10-hectare heart-shaped island provided a luxurious getaway in the middle of Noosa for up to 20 guests.