Our no swim wa­ters

Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Scott Tib­balls

WA­TER­WAYS in the shire are out of bounds if crocodile safety is a con­cern to busi­nesses, lo­cals and tourists alike.

Dur­ing the pub­lic meet­ing on crocodile man­age­ment yes­ter­day, when asked if oper­a­tors should be telling vis­i­tors not to swim at the beach, North­ern Wildlife Man­ager from the Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion Michael Joyce said yes.

Wendy Cross­man, who man­ages a re­sort near Four Mile Beach in Port Dou­glas, said the num­ber of crocs clos­ing the beach was be­ing no­ticed by long term, re­peat vis­i­tors to her re­sort.

“What do I tell these guests – how safe are they?” she asked. “I am more con­cerned about some­one get­ting hurt by a crocodile be­fore it’s re­moved.

“I love this town and I be­lieve in this town and for the first time I’m ask­ing my­self if I should in­vest more money.”

Depart­ment of En­vi­ron­ment and Her­itage Pro­tec­tion of­fi­cers were in Port Dou­glas to meet with oper­a­tors after re­quests by the Dain­tree Mar­ket­ing Co­op­er­a­tive and the Dou­glas Shire Coun­cil. The vi­a­bil­ity of busi­ness that de­pend on safe ac­cess to the beaches and wa­ter­ways of the area was the hottest topic.

Peter and Astrid Van Pee­len, who op­er­ate Pad­dle­trek in the Dain­tree, re­vealed their busi­ness was suf­fer­ing.

“If no­body is al­lowed to go in the wa­ter – where does that leave (our) busi­ness?”

About 60 tourism oper­a­tors and com­mu­nity mem­bers at­tended the meet­ing, which was or­gan­ised as a re­sponse to higher num­bers of crocodile sight­ings as well as com­mu­nity anx­i­ety in the wake of the death of Cindy Wal­dron ear­lier this year.

Busi­ness in­ter­ests from around the shire were rep­re­sented, and the EHP of­fi­cers fielded ques­tions and com­ments on safety cam­paigns, pol­icy, and re­ac­tion times of the depart­ment and more.

Speak­ing at the be­gin­ning of the meet­ing, Co-chair Sheena Walshaw from the Dain­tree Mar­ket­ing Co­op­er­a­tive ex­plained that quar­terly re­ports from Tourism Port Dou­glas Dain­tree showed beaches are one of the ma­jor rea­sons for tourists to visit.

She said “as a com­mu­nity we must con­sider the long term ef­fects” of higher crocodile pop­u­la­tions that visit those beaches.

“Loss of tourism prod­uct will de­crease the strength of our in­dus­try.”

Vice pres­i­dent of Port Dou­glas Surf Life Sav­ing Michael Bolt said mem­ber­ship num­bers of the club were at risk. “The prob­lem seems to be the def­i­ni­tion of what is a dan­ger­ous an­i­mal,” he said.

In­creased sight­ings were chang­ing the per­cep­tion of safety in the town.

“This is dis­turb­ing be­cause in the past I could say it was safe to swim.”

Dar­ryl Tenni of Pin­na­cle Vil­lage Hol­i­day Park said his busi­ness had been af­fected by vis­i­tors want­ing re­funds be­cause of Wonga Beach be­ing con­sid­ered un­safe.

“The gov­ern­ment does not need to spend an­other 5.8 mil­lion dol­lars on a bloody study to count the damn things.”

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