No white elephants on our Quokka paradise

ROTTNEST holds a special place in the hearts of West Australians. Most of us have spent holidays on the island and have fond memories of the secluded beaches and laid-back atmosphere of the historic settlement.

More recently, fast ferries have made Rottnest popular among tourists who can day trip to the island even during the busy summer months when accommodation is full.

Few cities can boast such a facility just a half hour away from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind, boasting all the natural attributes that are required for a weekender or annual holiday.

The WA Government is right to recognise the importance of the island as a tourist destination but the local population’s needs should not be ignored.

Rottnest is a haven from the modern world.

As Perth seeks to attract talent to work here, such affordable and accessible attributes such as Rottnest offer the city and State it services another selling point for businesses seeking new staff.

Already the same fast ferries which made Rottnest so accessible for tourists have turned Thompson’s Bay into a busy harbour.

Efforts to bring in a user-pays system have made those trips to the island ever-more expensive. Up to $16 from a $38 ferry trip goes in landing fees and GST.

All this has the potential to take away the gloss of the island’s appeal as a place of sanctity for all WA people.

For this reason, the State Government must be careful with its development plans for the island, not just the current effort to revamp the existing hotel but any thoughts that Rottnest might have a future more in keeping with Queens-land’s Gold Coast.

To date, the developments such as the tea rooms and the café have been positive and in keeping with the island.

But big developments could take away the island’s special feel, not just for locals but also for the inquisitive tourists who come to WA for something different, not more of the same.

Any mistake which creates excess accommodation could be severe and the cost of having a white elephant on the island would be very high, not just in money terms but also to WA’s most beloved holiday playground.

Lobsters set for another star season

One of WA’s most important industries, lobster, has ended its lay off and started a new season which is set to earn the State another $300 million or more this financial year.

Lobster doesn’t match the importance of minerals and energy to WA but it fills a valuable niche.

Based around Perth and stretching up the coastal region of the southern third of WA, the fishery provides a high value export and jobs.

Its seasonal volatility makes it a tough business to be in and the competitive nature of its players has earned the lobster business a reputation for secrecy, at times in contrast with the Fisheries WA efforts to publicise catch forecasts.

Sometimes this sort of openess has been criticised by the fishing community, but the industry rode the storm of the Asian crisis better than many of its leading members expected.

Fishermen, processors and the service providers entered a new season this week knowing largely what they were in store for on the supply side.

Information, it seems, offers a level of security and comfort which will benefit everyone associated with this star performer of the Australian fishing industry.

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