Use and access to Whitsundays tourism hotspot open for public comment

The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority is seeking comment on proposed amendments to recreational and tourism use in the Whitsundays area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Whitsundays is one of the Reef’s visitor hotspots, attracting more than 40 per cent of total visitors to the iconic Great Barrier Reef.

Public comment is sought on proposed amendments to the Whitsundays Plan of Management, which outlines the activities that can occur in the Whitsundays in more detail than the Reef-wide zoning plan.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority general manager Simon Banks said the proposed amendments sought to protect the plant, animal, habitat and heritage values of the unique destination, while ensuring flexibility for people to enjoy the World Heritage Area.

“The Whitsundays makes up one per cent of the Marine Park’s total area and receives more than 40 per cent of total Reef visitors, making it one of Queensland’s most important tourism destinations,” Dr Banks said.

“Commercial and recreational use in the Whitsunday region has evolved since the Whitsundays Plan of Management was last amended nine years ago.

“We recognise it is a multiple-use area and the Whitsundays Plan of Management is a key tool in protecting the biodiversity of the region, as well as its beauty, to make sure we can all continue to appreciate it.

“Updating the plan continues to ensure effective management of this spectacular area and we’re keen to have as much input as possible into these proposed amendments.”

Among the proposed amendments are removing reef walking as a permitted activity and further protecting seabirds by limiting access to important nesting sites.

Other proposed changes include enhanced anchoring access for superyachts at various locations, particularly for vessels less than 70 metres and more motorised water sports areas, scenic flight opportunities and private moorings.

This formal consultation follows targeted consultation with the local community, Traditional Owners, recreational users and the tourism industry.

In preparing the amendments for consultation, the Marine Park Authority considered the impacts to ecological values and drew upon valuable local knowledge. The Marine Park Authority’s Outlook Report, technical papers, site-specific Reef health data, seabird monitoring and animal strandings information also informed the proposed amendments.

Public information sessions will be held on Thursday 9 March 2017 at the Whitsunday Marine Club at 2 Altmann Avenue, Cannonvale.

Visit us at any time during 11.30am—1.30pm and 5.30pm—7.30pm to view the material, discuss the proposed amendments and make a submission — either hard copy or electronically.

Alternatively, have your say online.