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Whitsunday Plan Of Management Gets Mixed Reaction

By Ray White Whitsunday

Not everyone would be happy with the new Whitsunday Plan of Management taking effect from today.

But Abell Point Marina general manager Luke McCaul is satisfied it has “struck the right balance” between promoting tourism in the Whitsundays and protecting the marine environment.

Among many changes, the plan allows greater access for vessels in excess of 35m and 21 new superyacht anchorages

NOT everyone is happy with the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s new Whitsunday Plan of Management taking effect from today.

But Abell Point Marina general manager Luke McCaul is satisfied it has “struck the right balance” between promoting tourism in the Whitsundays and protecting the marine environment.

Among many changes, the plan allows greater access for vessels larger than 35m and 21 new superyacht anchorages to be established at “carefully selected” locations with no corals or other sensitive habitats

“(The Whitsunday Plan of Management changes) are very timely for us as we are starting our cruising season,” Mr McCaul said.

“We will have more captains coming to the marina which means more berthing, fuel, parking, eating at restaurants and an on-flow to local suppliers and daily activity.

“There are a few anchorages that will be reviewed over 12 months in sensitive areas near Nara Islet that need to be tested for sensitivity and sea weed grasses.”

Nonetheless and contrary to what some in the tourism industry would describe as a positive step forward, Whitsunday diving instructor Tony Fontes used one word to describe his view of the changes – “disappointed”.

While acknowledging some positives in the updated rules, he said allowing more access to the marine park was not sustainable.

“The marine park in the Whitsundays is at peak use and some might suggest that it is over used in terms of the number of boats out there most of the time,” Mr Fontes said.

“We will see greater access for jetskis, superyachts and airplanes which is more use. Now taken one at a time you aren’t seeing a significant increase (in activity) but none of the changes pull back any use, so it is just adding to the pressure.”

Mr Fontes said he would have liked to have seen implementation of the plan delayed as GBRMPA were managing a “new park” post-cyclone Debbie.

“It will need updating in the very near future when we understand the complete impact of the Cyclone, so we need the ability to adjust these plans more than every five years,” he said.

Further changes include more recognition of the traditional owners’ (Ngaro people) connection to the Whitsundays, more protection for sea birds through limiting how long vessels can access nesting areas, up to 20 new private moorings to allow for more motorised water sports areas and boundary changes for areas where activities such as motorised sports are allowed.

Most changes will take effect from today and will be implemented in stages over 12 months.

The Whitsunday Plan of Management is updated every five years.

Full details including a map detailing new motorised water sports locations and superyacht anchorages can be found here.

Source: Whitsunday Times

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