Whitsundays Plan of Management

The Whitsundays is well known for its spectacular island scenery, fringing and offshore reefs. The area supports a range of wildlife including threatened species such as humpback whales, dugong, loggerhead turtles and beach-stone curlews. The Whitsundays region is one of the most highly visited regions of the Great Barrier Reef.

Just like the Reef-wide zoning, the Whitsunday Plan of Management is a key tool for the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) in protecting the plants, animals and habitats of the Whitsundays region.

The Plan was established in 1998 and outlines how tourism and recreation in the Whitsundays can be managed to provide for a range of user experiences – from popular tourist destinations to low key nature based experiences.

Amendments have been made to the Plan in 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2008.

Plan of management review

GBRMPA is undertaking a review of the Whitsunday Plan of Management (the Plan) in 2015. Since the last amendment, there’s been a range of changes in how the area is used and more detailed information on the outlook of the Reef. Future needs for the area will also be considered.

A period of targeted consultation has been undertaken with stakeholders, with a number of issues being raised for consideration. Proposed amendments have particularly focused on:

  • increasing access for motorised water sports reflecting the change in operations from being island-based to now primarily based from mainland marinas
  • increasing the size five regular aircraft landing areas reflecting the operational requirements for landing seaplanes
  • enhancing access for superyachts less than 70 metres by providing designated anchorage areas without displacing existing users
  • phasing out the activity of reef walking  
  • enhancing access for cruise ships by creating two new cruise ship anchorages near Hamilton Island and expanding the cruise ship anchorage at Funnel Bay to allow two ships to anchor simultaneously
  • technical/administrative changes that provide further clarification and strengthen the intent of the Plan and aligning it with the values and terminology used in the Outlook Report 2014 and Strategic Assessment Report.
The review process

Following 18 months of targeted consultation, GBRMPA will now prepare a revised Plan for public consultation. After considering public feedback the Plan will be finalised and provided to our Marine Park Authority Board for consideration. Consequential updates to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Regulations are also likely.

Implementation of the plan will then occur. Any changes to the way that the Whitsundays Planning Area is currently used will be communicated to those that use the area.  

Important note: The existing Plan of Management continues to be in force until such time as the revised Plan is approved and implemented. An investment warning will be issued to permittees who may be affected by the changes.

For further information on the review process or to register interest and be provided with an email to notify you that the public consultation process has commenced please email consultation@gbrmpa.gov.au.

Tourism operators

Visit: Onboard - the tourism operator's handbook to the Great Barrier Reef

Recreational visitors

Visit: A guide to visiting the Whitsundays for recreational users

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