Tourism Opportunities in the Cairns Planning Area

There are a number of tourism opportunities available in the Cairns Planning Area:

Read about each type below.

Standard Tour Operations - vessels (no more than 70 metres) or aircraft

  • allows daily access to the Area (without a booking) when operating to a permitted private mooring or pontoon
  • allows 50 days access each year to the Cairns Planning Area subject to a booking (40 bookings are allowed each day)
  • allows daily access to the Area (without a booking) for low impact operations, such as non-motorised craft and scenic flights above 500 feet
  • allows daily access to the Area (without a booking) from September to December, if operating primarily for the purpose of game fishing
  • allows up to 50 days a year vessel access to a Sensitive Location subject to a booking (for Lizard Island Locality 1 and the Cod Hole Locality no booking is required and more frequent access is allowed if operating to a mooring)
  • does not allow aircraft access to Sensitive Locations below certain heights
  • must abide by group size limits.

Regional Tour Operations - vessels (no more than 70 metres) or aircraft

  • allows daily access (without a booking) to the Cairns Planning Area, with up to 50 days in a year at any one Location unless operating to a permitted private mooring or endorsed to provide greater access
  • allows up to 50 days a year vessel access to a Sensitive Location subject to a booking (for Lizard Island Locality 1 and the Cod Hole Locality no booking is required and more frequent access is allowed if operating to a mooring) - may be endorsed to provide greater access
  • does not allow aircraft access to Sensitive Locations below certain heights
  • must abide by the group size limits - may be endorsed to provide greater access

Note: Generally, the GBRMPA is not granting additional Regional Tour Operation permits. The Plan allows for a small number of new permits and the timing for the release of these will be based on input from the community and industry. Any permits that become available will be allocated through an expressions of interest process. Contact the GBRMPA to keep up-to-date about available permits. Existing permits are tradeable, but the transfer must be approved by the GBRMPA. Your local tourism association may have information on any existing permits that are available for transfer.

Long Range Roving Operations - vessels (no more than 35 metres)

  • allows either 100 days access each year to the Cairns Planning Area with 50 days to any one Location, or everyday access to the Planning Area when accessing a permitted private mooring or pontoon in Lizard Island Locality 1, Cod Hole Locality and any other location that is not a Sensitive Location
  • no more than 2 days in any 7-day period at any one Location
  • allows up to 30 passengers (a greater number can be taken on up to 10 days per year, with written notification to the GBRMPA)
  • limited to whole vessel charter with no fixed schedule.

Note: The GBRMPA is not granting additional Long Range Roving Operation permits. Any permits that become available will be allocated through an expressions of interest process. Contact the GBRMPA to keep up-to-date about available permits. Existing permits are tradeable, but the transfer must be approved by the GBRMPA. Your local tourism association may have information on any existing permits that are available for transfer.

Craftless Operations - operations (e.g. dive schools) that operate from the beach or 'piggy back' on other vessels to go to the reef

  • does not allow for the independent operation of a vessel or aircraft, though the permittee may travel onboard other operations
  • allows daily access to the Cairns Planning Area, subject to the same access and activity conditions as the permitted vessel or aircraft that is being used.

Hire Operations - hire craft and hire equipment (e.g. beach hire)

  • allows daily access to the Cairns Planning Area
  • allows no more than 50 days access each year to a Sensitive Location.

Cruise Ship Operations - vessels (more than 70 metres)

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