‘There’s more to Air­lie’

La­goon isn’t ev­ery­thing, jour­nal­ists on re­cov­ery trip are told

Whitsunday Times - - NEWS - Sharon Small­wood sharon.small­wood@whit­sun­day­times.com.au

“THE la­goon doesn’t de­fine Air­lie Beach.”

This is what Paul Bur­fitt, owner of Air­lie Beach restau­rant The Tree­house, told tourism op­er­a­tors and jour­nal­ists vis­it­ing the Whitsundays last week.

Mr Bur­fitt’s restau­rant sits right be­side the la­goon precinct, a precinct cur­rently look­ing a lit­tle the worse for wear thanks to Trop­i­cal Cy­clone Deb­bie.

Dur­ing the cy­clone build­ings and struc­tures at the la­goon were dam­aged, and on the evening of March 29, the pool filled with sewage over­flow­ing from the nearby toi­lets and pump sta­tion.

Just last week, Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil an­nounced it would be the end of Au­gust be­fore the pop­u­lar fa­cil­ity was fixed, but Mr Bur­fitt, as one of the busi­ness peo­ple in clos­est prox­im­ity, has man­aged to re­main up­beat.

Host­ing six out of town jour­nal­ists at a lun­cheon on Fri­day, he ad­mit­ted “it doesn’t look ter­ri­bly pretty at the mo­ment”.

“(But) in the mean­time I can tell you we’ve got a new ‘sight’ in town,” he joked.

“A lot of peo­ple are com­ing and tak­ing photos of the (empty) la­goon.

“They’re still com­ing down to the area, there’s still things to do and see here.

“The la­goon doesn’t de­fine Air­lie Beach.

“The la­goon is just one of the many, many things you can do in Air­lie Beach.”

Nonethe­less, Whit­sun­day Coast Cham­ber of Com­merce pres­i­dent Al­lan Milostic said the clo­sure of the la­goon was hav­ing a flow-on ef­fect.

“The dif­fer­ence the la­goon makes is as sim­ple as the back­pack­ers stay­ing more nights,” he ex­plained.

“While the boat num­bers might still be okay, the run-off into the town and other busi­nesses isn’t hap­pen­ing at the mo­ment.

“The la­goon be­ing closed is hav­ing a big im­pact on both the vis­i­tors and the busi­nesses in the (Air­lie Beach) main street.”

Mr Milostic said while ini­tially shocked at how long the la­goon would take to fix, he was sym­pa­thetic to­wards the coun­cil, who cer­tainly weren’t to blame.

And he agreed “the la­goon isn’t ev­ery­thing”.

“But the la­goon is pretty spe­cial and it’s an easy place for back­pack­ers to come and so­cialise,” he said.

Mr Bur­fitt how­ever, re­minded the jour­nal­ists from out of town “a bad day in Air­lie Beach is bet­ter than a good day any­where else”.

“So to the me­dia – please talk the facts, (say how) ev­ery­thing is, (but re­mem­ber) this is a won­der­ful spot, it’s a re­ally good place to live and en­joy – and it’s a great place if you want to come and visit and just chill out,” he said.

Vis­it­ing me­dia were brought to the Whitsundays cour­tesy of Tig­erair and hosted by Tourism Whitsundays as part of a cy­clone re­cov­ery famil.

As well as eat­ing at The Tree­house they sam­pled food from sev­eral other lo­cal restau­rants, stayed in a va­ri­ety of ac­com­mo­da­tion and took trips through­out the re­gion.

High­lights were a sun­set cruise on the tall ship Sol­way Lass, trips to Proser­pine, White­haven Beach and the reef, and an af­ter­noon at the cy­clone ben­e­fit con­cert, Whit­sun­day Ses­sions, with all prof­its do­nated to the SES.

PHOTO: SHARON SMALL­WOOD

UP­BEAT: De­bra and Paul Bur­fitt host­ing a cy­clone re­cov­ery famil lun­cheon at their Air­lie Beach Tree­house restau­rant last week.

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