Special Tourism Permissions

If your permit allows you to undertake a specific activity that is not generally available, you have a 'special tourism permission'. Special tourism permissions relate to capped activities in the Cairns, Hinchinbrook and Whitsunday Planning Areas and usually allow operators to continue to do something that was permitted before Plans of Management came into effect, but which is no longer generally permitted under the provisions of the Plans.

If you hold one of these permits, there are some important management arrangements that you should be familiar with. This forms part of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority policy on tourism permits, developed at the request of the tourism industry to provide more certainty and to discourage hoarding and speculation of permits.

Making use of your special tourism permission

In recognition of the valuable opportunities provided by special tourism permissions and to improve certainty for your operation, you are expected to make reasonable use of the permission. You will retain first option on your special tourism permission, providing you have made reasonable use of that permission and you apply for your next permit before your current one expires. You should clearly understand the assessment arrangements that have been put in place to check the use of your permit.

What happens if I don't make reasonable use?

To ensure that the opportunities on the permit are available for use, any special tourism permission that does not meet the reasonable use requirement will usually become 'spare' and available for allocation.

How are new or spare special tourism permissions allocated?

Any new special tourism permissions or those that become available for re-allocation will be allocated through an expressions of interest process. The tourism opportunity will be publicly advertised and an application period nominated.

Identifying special tourism permissions

A special tourism permission is one that allows a capped tourism activity and includes any one of the following:

  • Access to the Whitsunday or Hinchinbrook* Areas without a booking
  • Anchoring access to the Cairns Area without a booking
  • Cruise ship access to the Cairns or Hinchinbrook* Areas without a booking
  • Access to a Sensitive Location without a booking in the Cairns or Hinchinbrook* Areas or access to a setting 5 area in the Whitsunday Area
  • More than 50 days anchoring access per year to a
    Cairns Area Location
  • Larger group size than that provided for in the setting in all Areas
  • Larger vessel size than that provided for in a location in the Hinchinbrook* Area
  • Long range roving operations in all Areas or bareboat operations in the Whitsunday or Hinchinbrook Areas
  • The activities of whale watching in the Whitsunday or Cairns Areas, and swimming-with-whales in the Cairns Area
  • The activities of reef walking other than at Hardy Reef or Black Island Reef, and fishing in the Conservation Park (Yellow) Zone in the Whitsunday Area
  • The activity of motorised water sports in specified locations in the Hinchinbrook* Area.

* Only permits granted after adoption of the Hinchinbrook Plan of Management (15 April 2004) are special tourism permissions.

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