Eco ‘travel bi­ble’ ku­dos

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - NEWS - RICHARD KOSER

THE Dou­glas re­gion is one of the green­est parts of Aus­tralia, ac­cord­ing to a “green travel bi­ble” re­leased re­cently.

The Green Travel Guide Aus­tralia 2010/11, put out by Eco­Tourism Aus­tralia and Sus­tain­able Tourism Aus­tralia, lists 25 lo­cal busi­nesses which have made a com­mit­ment to min­imis­ing their im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment, roughly a quar­ter of all green busi­nesses in Queens­land.

Of those, six have been recog­nised as Green Travel Lead­ers for their ef­forts over a decade or more.

Many of those busi­nesses are north of the Dain­tree River, where the lack of mains power has in­flu­enced the move to­wards en­ergy-ef­fi­ciency and other low-im­pact prac­tices.

Many op­er­a­tors on the Dain­tree coast have em­braced green prac­tices and see it as the way for­ward.

“It’s a great thing, the only way for the Dain­tree,” said Prue Hewett of Cooper Creek Wilder­ness Lodge, one of the Green Travel Lead­ers.

“We have to look af­ter the en­vi­ron­ment and the econ­omy, they go to­gether.

“Al­though we didn’t have much choice (to go green), it hasn’t been a hard­ship.”

How­ever, Ms Hewett said there needed to be more mar­ket­ing to pro­mote the “green shire” as an eco­tourism des­ti­na­tion.

“We’re busy pro­mot­ing ’fun in the sun’ but we had 6.5 me­tres of rain in the last year,” she said.

“We need to di­ver­sify our mes­sage to pro­mote small-scale eco-tourism.

“More than 90 per cent of the old Dou­glas shire is World Her­itage, and our plan­ning schemes don’t al­low in­ten­sive devel­op­ment.

“Un­for­tu­nately, too many vis­i­tors come for a day trip and don’t get to see the real old-growth for­est.”

Most tour op­er­a­tors with a long­stand­ing com­mit­ment to green tourism be­lieve pas­sion­ately in their prod­uct.

Wave­length pi­o­neered the use of reg­u­lar moor­ings to pro­tect the reef and em­ploys qual­i­fied ma­rine bi­ol­o­gists to teach guests about the reef.

“I guess we’ve been the poster child for eco-tourism,” Wave­length gen­eral man­ager Carolynne Staines said.

“We’ve been do­ing a lot of these things since be­fore Eco­Tourism Aus­tralia ex­isted.

“When Steve Simp­son set up Wave­length, he did it on the ba­sis that if you show and teach peo­ple how amaz­ing the reef is, they’re more likely to want to pro­tect and con­serve it.”

How­ever, some ac­cred­ited op­er­a­tors think eco-cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is too easy to get.

“As long as you pay your fee, Eco­Tourism Aus­tralia seems happy to give you a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion,” one op­er­a­tor said.

“There’s a lot more op­er­a­tors that talk the talk than there are who walk the walk.

“It can be dis­cour­ag­ing to see other peo­ple flout the rules, get re­ported, shrug their shoul­ders and carry on as if noth­ing hap­pened.

“Some ’eco-op­er­a­tors’ don’t even do the ba­sics, like re­cy­cle.

“A lot of them sell bot­tled wa­ter. How green is that?”

The Green Travel Guide Aus­tralia is avail­able at­tourism.

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