A new blueprint has been unveiled for one of the world’s most spectacular marine parks, focussing on enhanced opportunities for tourism, conservation, and recreational activities.
The Palaszczuk Government has released its draft zoning plan for the Great Sandy Marine Park, which sits between the world’s largest sand island K’gari (Fraser Island) and the Australian mainland, acting as a home to species including whales, dugongs, turtles and dolphins.
Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon says the draft plan would see a further 791km2 of the marine park protected as ‘green zones’ – an increase of 8.9 per cent – and drive new opportunities for the local tourism and recreational fishing economy, currently valued at $421 million.
“The Great Sandy is the gateway to some of the most spectacular places in Queensland, both for humans and marine life,” Minister Scanlon says.
“It’s a popular place for tourists to go whale watching, to witness turtles’ nest, see dolphins, dive with grey nurse sharks, cast a line and travel to K’gari for 4WDing.
“The draft plan proposes to expand areas where marine life can thrive, and in turn support local tourism operators – creating upwards of 70 new good jobs – and families who love to get out on their boat for a day on the water.
“The draft plan also includes provisions for more coastal infrastructure such as boat ramps and artificial reefs to support nature-based tourism and recreation fishing.”
Minister Scanlon says the draft plan had been based on widespread consultation with the local community, First Nations partners and a dedicated scientific reference group.
“This has been an extensive process, but it’s one we want to get right. The next step is to now go out and get feedback on what’s been drafted, so we can refine the final plan.
“Commercial fishing will be allowed in certain areas, and the government will be working with the local fishing industry to create a financial assistance and re-training package to support those directly-impacted by any changes from the draft plan.”
The draft plan also proposes expanding go slow areas to protect turtles and dugongs, as well as existing seasonal restrictions to shorebird sites during nesting periods.
Meantime, the LNP argues there needs a regulatory impact statement (RIS) to understand the full effects changes will have on the commercial fishing industry.
Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett says there’s a lot of work still to be done to ensure viability of the fishing industry, but he welcomes a recommendation to change the Fish Habitat Area at Flat Rock Picnic Area, Baffle Creek.
“For years the community and I have been asking for this change that will permit beach nourishment works,” Mr Bennett says.
“These works will bring the beach back to its former glory and allow small businesses to operate once more.
“Finally, I cannot stress how important it is to provide feedback to the plan now.
“This plan will shape numerous industries into the future.
“It’s vital everyone understands just how serious some of these consequences could be for the tourism industry, and recreational and commercial anglers.
“I have real concerns around some of the new Green Zones, and how they will impact small businesses in the Burnett and out to K’Gari Fraser Island.”
To view the full draft plan and to have your say head to: www.qld.gov.au/greatsandymarinepark