Our no swim waters
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.”