Holiday State Image Needs to Focus on Great Barrier Reef Icon

The ongoing focus on activities associated with Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef clearly stamps this vast and unique natural wonder as the best known feature of Australia in the world.

In essence, the Great Barrier Reef and its diversity of natural beauty and wonders is the single attraction that has been at the fore front of developing Queensland as the holiday and tourist state of Australia and a must visit Australian destination.

We need to encourage all Australians to visit this unique wonderland and become global ambassadors for the reef and its special place in the world. For the past two centuries, Australians have targeted seaside opportunities at the places to holiday because of the beauty and lifestyle attractions.

We, at ARAMA, know this because our branches are all based strategically along the sea shores of the state and even though the two major holiday centres, the Gold and Sunshine coasts are not protected by the Great Barrier Reef, they offer similar lifestyle and holiday attractions and are recognised as the tourist capitals of our nation.

Unfortunately too many Australians have not taken the opportunity to come and visit the Great Barrier Reef and, as a result, we Australians are not getting the message out to the rest of the world that for a unique experience and a great holiday, the Great Barrier Reef is a standout must. The highlighting of tourism as one of the main pillars of the Queensland economy now puts a firm focus on the tourist industry as one of the major employers and generators of economic stability and growth for many regions along the coast, which are indeed gateways not just to the Great Barrier Reef but to the Outback wonders that are also an integral part of Australiana.

Each week Australians are bombarded with attractive offers to visit international destinations and take cruises to international attractions or fly in to take barge trips down the rivers of Europe as an essential part of life experiences. While we understand that competition in the tourist business is very focused, it is important for Australians not to lose sight of the holiday wonders that exist in our holiday centres and the opportunity to visit one of the world’s greatest natural wonders that is right on our doorstep.

Last month the DestinationQ forum saw the new Queensland government commit to the long term promotion of the Great Barrier Reef as the genuine jewel for tourism.

There is no doubt that the tyranny of distance and the global financial crisis has had a savage impact on holidays and tourism in general in Queensland and Australia. ARAMA members are essentially small business owners who live and breathe service to visitors and are committed hands on tourist ambassadors on behalf of their owners and the local and regional economies.

The Great Barrier Reef offers ongoing opportunities for tourism and unfortunately the GFC and some adverse weather events has seen a number of attractions forced to close and as a result there is need to remind the world that as a living wonder, the reef continues to thrive and remains protected by sound administrative protocols. We are pleased to see the commitment and focus on the reef and welcome the announcement that the Queensland government will undertake a “strategic assessment” of the Great Barrier Reef to ensure coastal development is planned properly and does not compromise environmental standards.

Premier Campbell Newman has said that the state government wanted to strike the right balance between environmental protection and ensuring sustainable development could still occur in coastal areas. While a key component of the government’s plan for Queensland to grow a four pillar economy is the resources sector it is also determined to protect the environment and the Great Barrier Reef for future generations to enjoy.

We note that as part of the strategic assessment process, the Queensland government will:

• Prepare a ports strategy for the Great Barrier Reef;
• Refine the coastal plan that includes the protection of areas of high ecological significance;
• Develop statutory regional plans to better manage land use issues; and
• Conduct a review of the environmental offsets required of developments to ensure funds derived from the Great Barrier Reef region are used to tackle the most significant issues facing the reef.

We are heartened by Campbell Newman’s comments that the Queensland government recognised the national and international importance of the reef, and was committed to working with the commonwealth to ensure this iconic landmark was preserved. As Mr Newman enunciates, the strategic assessment will be an opportunity for Queensland to show the world that we are at the forefront of best practice environmental planning and to demonstrate that we have rigorous systems in place to protect the Great Barrier Reef now and into the future.

It is important that domestic and international visitors add a Great Barrier Reef visit to their “must do bucket list” and not put off the opportunity of a life time.

Chris Ward

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