Updates to Whitsundays Plan of Management

From 2 August 2017 there are new rules in place to better protect the Whitsundays area, one of the iconic areas of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

The Whitsundays is one of the most spectacular areas in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, attracting more than 40 per cent of the more than two million visitors who come to the Reef each year.

The new rules are outlined in updates to the Whitsundays Plan of Management, an area-specific plan that manages use in this highly-visited region in addition to Reef-wide zoning.

The new rules apply to recreational visitors to the area and tourism operators. There are no changes to zoning.

What’s new?

The Amending Instrument contains complete details about the changes.

Recreational and commercial visitors should familiarise themselves with the full plan and contact the Marine Park Authority with any queries.

Among the changes:

Recreational visitors
  • Increases to the areas available for motorised water sports (i.e. freestyling on a jet ski or parasailing) adjacent to Hayman Island, Hamilton Island and Lindeman Island.
  • Seabirds such as black naped and bridled terns protected by extending the time vessels and aircraft cannot access nesting areas during key nesting periods.
  • Coordinate-based boundaries allowing users to better follow the rules (this includes settings, locations, and significant bird sites).
  • Twenty-one new superyacht anchorages to be established at carefully-selected locations with no corals or other sensitive habitats, providing further tourism opportunities and still protecting the area’s core values.
Tourism operators
  • Allowing commercial jet ski operators to transit inshore settings.
  • Seabirds such as black naped and bridled terms protected by extending the time vessels and aircraft cannot access nesting areas during key nesting periods.
  • Twenty-one new superyacht anchorages to be established at carefully-selected locations with no corals or other sensitive habitats, providing further tourism opportunities and still protecting the area’s core values.
  • Two new designated anchorages (adjacent to Dent Island and Hamilton Island) and the Funnel Bay anchorage has been extended — designated anchorages are generally used by vessels 70m and above.
  • Five new scenic flight opportunities for fixed-wing aircraft — to be allocated through merit application process.
  • Seward extensions to the boundaries at five regular aircraft landing areas.
  • Coordinate-based boundaries allowing users to better follow the rules (this includes settings, locations, and significant bird sites).
What remains the same?

The fundamental elements from the previous Whitsundays Plan of Management have not changed and will continue to ensure effective management of this iconic area.

Previous protections in-place for the Whitsundays — such as 1000 feet minimum flight height and maximum vessel lengths and group sizes — will remain to protect the area’s scenic and recreational values.

There are no changes to zoning in the area.

How will it be implemented?

Implementation will be staged over the coming 12 months. It will include information packages and maps, expression of interest processes and updates to the booking database.  

To allow tourism operators to benefit from the new amendments as soon as possible, regulation 179 was included as part of the amendments to the Regulations.

If you hold a permission that is currently in force, and the conditions of that permission expressly prohibit you from carrying out an activity that was prohibited under the plan, you can now carry out that activity if the plan now allows for that activity.    

There is still more work to be done in the Whitsundays to address concerns about congestion including developing site plans and reviewing the use of tourism permits for this area.

More information

For more information please go to the Whitsundays Plan of Management page or contact the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority on (07) 4750 0700.