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‘Holiday’ job no picnic

“I AM not on holiday,” says Rottnest Island Authority CEO John Mitchell.

The Irishman turned Western Australian could be the envy of most public servants and business people because he spends about three days a week on the resort island.

“Things are extremely busy at the moment,” Mr Mitchell said.

“The island is very self-contained. That is one of the things that makes it such a good job.

“We have to manage our own water, sewerage and rubbish as well as dealing with visitors.”

He said the authority was gearing up for the busy summer season.

This will start with the Surf Assault on November 11 when Perth’s surf clubs descend on the island in their surf boats and on wave skis, followed by the Rottnest Swim Through where contestants swim from the old army jetty to Thomsons Bay and back.

“Then we’re into Carols by Candlelight,” Mr Mitchell said.

There are expected to be 440,000 visitors to the island this year.

Mr Mitchell said September had been an extremely busy month – probably due to the timing of the school holidays.

“The activity comes to a peak in January,” he said.

“Accommodation is well used from September through to the Easter Holidays.”

He said the island’s ballot system had been changed, which should allow about a 16 per cent increase in the ballots excepted.

Last year the Authority received 4,800 ballot entries and accepted 1,340. This year it received 4,810 and has accepted 1,752.

“We’ve added a couple of days at the front and back of the ballot,” Mr Mitchell said.

“We’ve also split the island into south and north Thomson, Geordie and Longreach.

“We’re changing over one block at a time.

“We’re able to take more people over the ballot period and having them come and go at different times helps us manage the cleaning and luggage transfer.”

He said there were no plans to construct a building similar in size to Observation City at Scarborough.

He was posed the question recently at a function when a women asked him why the Rottnest Island Authority was allowing Qantas to build a high-rise hotel.

“There must be only two people in WA who don’t know anything about this – me and Qantas.

“According to the management plan there is a line drawn from Kingston, across the back of the townsite to Geordie Bay. We are not building beyond that line.

“Our current focus is on upgrading the accommodation we have on the island.”

There are 1,344 beds available on Rottnest.

Mr Mitchell said the Winter Magic campaign, a series of package deals varying from four days to a week that included ferry and other costs, was successful with 400 packages sold.

That was additional to the visitors the island hosted during winter.

“Rottnest has a very active business community and they got behind the campaign,” he said.

“The island has a lot to offer in the winter. It’s a quiet time. It gives people an opportunity to walk and fish without all the crowds around.”

Winter is the period that allows the Authority to maintain and upgrade facilities.

During this winter upgrades included renovations of some of the cottages at Thomson Bay, work on the Lighthouse Keepers residence at Bathhurst and an upgrade of the General Store.

The building housing the store is heritage listed so the upgrade had to maintain that integrity while making it a better shop.

There was also landscaping works in the shopping mall.

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