Push for devel­op­ment

Whit­sun­day Is­land on state radar

Daily Mercury - - NEWS - ASH­LEY PILLHOFER Ash­ley.Pillhofer@dai­ly­mer­cury.com.au

THE PRIS­TINE shore­line of Whit­sun­day Is­land could be de­vel­oped into ac­com­mo­da­tion by pri­vate in­vestors.

The State Gov­ern­ment re­cently an­nounced it would be invit­ing pri­vate op­er­a­tors to sub­mit ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est for the devel­op­ment of ad­ven­ture and tourism op­por­tu­ni­ties within the Whit­sun­day Is­land Na­tional Park.

Ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est were also sought for Hinch­in­brook Is­land and Great Sandy na­tional parks.

Tourism In­dus­try Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Kate Jones said the gov­ern­ment wanted to “part­ner with the pri­vate sec­tor” to de­velop eco­tourism ex­pe­ri­ences in lo­ca­tions around the state.

“The ex­pres­sions of in­ter­est... are the first stage to make sure we de­velop sus­tain­able tourism ex­pe­ri­ences that show­case the very best of Queens­land.

Mackay Con­ser­va­tion Group has launched a pe­ti­tion telling the State Gov­ern­ment to keep its ‘Hands off our Na­tional Parks’.

Co-or­di­na­tor Peter McCal­lum said na­tional parks had been pre­served for a par­tic­u­lar pur­pose – to pro­tect the sci­en­tific and eco­log­i­cal val­ues and beauty of the nat­u­ral land­scapes of Queens­land.

“Na­tional parks have not been set aside from devel­op­ment so that they can be­come the ex­clu­sive play­ground of a se­lect few,” Mr McCal­lum said.

He be­lieves the parks are the state’s most valu­able as­set.

“What we have seen in the past, in Tas­ma­nia, which is the model for this kind of devel­op­ment, is ex­clu­sive ac­cess,” he said.

“At this time we don’t know ex­actly what pri­vate de­vel­op­ers will be ask­ing the gov­ern­ment... but there is ev­ery chance that th­ese areas could be­come off lim­its to the pub­lic.”

Tourism Whit­sun­day gen­eral man­ager Natas­sia Wheeler said if ex­e­cuted prop­erly the plan to de­velop could serve to ben­e­fit the area’s tourism in­dus­try.

“The key for us, is that we are away look­ing at ways to diver­sify,” she said. “We would be very in­ter­ested to hear about the idea as long as it is the right kind of devel­op­ment. The great­est ex­pe­ri­ences in the world are de­vel­oped in nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ments.”

“Our un­der­stand­ing is that the sort of devel­op­ment would be eco-tents or eco-cab­ins for 20-30 peo­ple.”

Ms Jones said the project was as much about con­ser­va­tion as it was about tourism.

“We want more vis­i­tors to be able to ex­pe­ri­ence our eco­trails be­cause we know that show­cas­ing Queens­land’s nat­u­ral beauty will lure more tourists,” she said.

“One of the EOI de­sign prin­ci­ples states pro­po­nents must ‘en­cour­age vis­i­tors to ap­pre­ci­ate and want to pro­tect the na­tional park’.

She said the devel­op­ment might in­clude cab­ins, re­treats, huts or glamp­ing fa­cil­i­ties, just like the ones al­ready in place in other states.

Photo: Con­tributed

DEVEL­OP­MENT TAR­GET: Hill In­let look­ing south along the iconic White­haven Beach, on Whit­sun­day Is­land. The is­land has been ear­marked for pos­si­ble devel­op­ment.

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