Crocodiles: how about two sets of solutions?
DEEP in the second hour of the Crocodile Management Meeting in Port Douglas last week, resort owner Wendy Crossman tried to get a clear answer on whether the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection thought tourists should go in the water in Far North Queensland.
The response didn’t make her happy, with Northern Wildlife Manager Michael Joyce saying yes.
“They started with the stance that people shouldn’t be in the water,” said Ms Crossman, who when speaking to the Gazette later said that proposals to change crocwise signage in the area to be more forceful on keeping people away from the water as part of an ‘improved’ education program would bleed away Port Douglas’ tourism industry.
“There can be no doubt that many of those people would look for other options should we not be able to go in the water at Four Mile Beach.”
If Port Douglas faced a future without its beach, Ms Crossman said resort prices would get softer, gaps between stays would get longer, and visitors would stay for less time.
Proposals to change signage to make the risk of crocodile attacks more clear come off the back of a DEHP consultation seeking input on how to improve the crocwise message – and education is the angle the DEHP is going for.
“I asked if (improved signs) were going to say it’s safe to go on the beach but not in the water – and he (EHP representative) looked at me with conviction and said yes, that is our intention.
“It’s a fait accompli – they’re going for a no-risk policy when we previously had some level of risk being in play.
“Maybe it’s right that we stop people going in the water 365 days a year, but during the high season it is dangerous and very damaging from an economic point of view.
“I think it will put people off – to what degree I can’t say.”
Ms Crossman, who has spent 25 years in the industry went on to explain that generally, the summer and winter seasons attracted two different markets of people – winter visitors (who bring in the most money) like to appreciate the beach and relax, and summer visitors want to explore and discover new things.
The two seasons also bring vastly different conditions on the beach – in winter crocodiles are not as active and unlikely to close Four Mile Beach every few days as they cruise past, and in summer the beach is not overly attractive anyway due to stinger nets, highly active crocodiles and water that’s too warm to be refreshing.
Ms Crossman said that because of the different conditions through the year, and the different markets that the seasons attracted, any improved signage should reflect that, and not alarm winter tourists by warning them to stay out of the water completely.
“Educating people at the time of year they’re so active is essential, (but) if there is no increase in risk on previous winters, then couldn’t we allow business as normal during the high period?”
There can be no doubt that many of those people would look for other options should we not be able to go in the water at Four Mile Beach
Warning sign at Four Mile Beach newly erected last week. Inset: Michael Joyce of EHP at the forum