Green thumbs up for eco-tourism
ECO-TOURISM for Fraser Island has been given the green thumbs up by a local conservationist and the tourism board.
Mike West, who has had a holiday home at Eurong for 20 years, said if eco-tourism accommodation in the town meant fewer backpackers on the beach, he was all for it.
Premier Anna Bligh listed Eurong as one of seven areas the State Government would like to see private investors express an interest in establishing eco-tourism holiday accommodation.
Ms Bligh put the call out at the Tourism Jobs Summit in Brisbane on Wednesday with the aim to boost visitor numbers in Queensland’s protected areas.
“It is my understanding it would be to cater for the backpacker market, which at the moment isn’t catered for very well,” Mr West said.
“Anything to get backpackers off the beach would be a step in the right direction.”
Mr West said a government sustainable visitor capacity study he took part in from 2005 to 2007 identified backpackers as posing the highest environmental risk for the island.
He described the current backpacker situation as horrendous, and his only real concern was if accommodation did not attract backpackers but instead increased tourist numbers to the island.
“I think we’re just about at peak now,” Mr West said of island visitor figures.
Meantime, Fraser Coast South Burnett Tourism general manager Damien Massingham said the decision was a win-win for conservation and tourism.
“Queensland-wide I think it’s a very positive move and particularly for the Fraser Coast I think it’s fantastic.
“The two, national parks and eco-tourism, can, and do, work hand in hand very well.
“It really is a step in the right direction and something the tourism industry has been pushing for years.”
Queensland had the best national parks in Australia, Mr Massingham said, and the board and government wanted to protect them while allowing people to visit them.
Ms Bligh said she spoke with both tourism and environmental groups about the plan and all agreed they did not want to see five-star resorts in state parks.
“This is about tapping into the growing eco-tourism market by showcasing some of our best environmental assets, while ensuring they’re properly protected.”
The “low-impact” accommodation would be similar to an eco-friendly tourist lodge at Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain and safari tents in Victoria’s Wilsons Promontory National Park.
Approved accommodation would be operated and built by private companies but be under state ownership.
The income from the facilities would go back into the parks for improvement and conservation.PICK OF THE PARKS
The seven areas identified under the plan:
- Eurong – Fraser Island
- Wallaman Falls – Girringun (west of Cardwell)
- Ninny Rise – Mission Beach
- Jonah Bay – Whitsunday
- Mount Mee – D’Aguilar National Park
- Green Mountain – Lamington National Park
- Cowan South – Moreton Island