Planning ahead for tourism push

THE long-running saga of the Mauds Landing resort near Coral Bay is an example of the way tourism development, particularly in environmentally sensitive areas, should not be undertaken.

While the consortium behind the proposal has been working for a decade or so on its proposal, it has had to deal with constant changes, which have whittled plans down to a fraction of the original concept.

Whether or not this particular proposal is a good outcome is not something I am prepared to make a comment on.

I believe the real issue is the need for a debate on the future usage of the Ningaloo Reef area, and any other areas deemed sensitive, so that developers know the rules before they embark on the expensive business of planning tourism projects in remote areas.

We need to define now what we want to do with these areas – assuming we want some form of tourism to take place – not wait until the white shoe brigade from Surfers Paradise comes knocking on our door.

Are these regions to be wilderness areas that attract only the hardiest and most adventurous travellers? Do we want a mixture of sub-regions with different levels of development? Or do we allow for a free for all?

That very much depends on the type of tourism WA wants.

If, as I believe, tourism not only attracts export dollars but also showcases WA’s economy, we need to make sure we have the options available to present that case adequately.

In the case of Mauds Landing, we need to ask ourselves what we want Ningaloo to be and who we want to attract to this place.

As a relatively undiscovered tourist zone, we have the chance to shape its image in the world’s eye, before the rest of the world or some property developers shape it for us.

A motion calling on the WA Government to refuse development approval for the Mauds Landing project was passed at last week’s ALP State Conference.

Premier Geoff Gallop said the vote was not binding on Government but would need to be taken into consideration.

I am not against Mauds Landing. Coral Bay, where boats are refuelled on the beach, needs something to take the pressure off it.

But is a resort going to reduce pressure or increase it?

I believe there needs to be some development of Ningaloo, albeit bearing in mind the lessons learned from places such as the Great Barrier Reef.

I also believe WA as a whole, not just Ningaloo, has the ability to stamp itself as an environmentally friendly tourist destination.

Showing that we know how to care for our environment and profit from it will make us the envy of the world.

It will also reaffirm the clean and green values we claim with our agriculture and seafood, as well as the environmental sustainability of our resources developments.

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