Reef access addressed as major tourism concern
CONCERNS over the significant drop in tourism numbers at Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy will be one of the key focuses at Gladstone Regional Council's general meeting today.
Over the last 18 months the two coastal towns have been impacted by a decrease in tourists visiting the area, with tourism operators holding three interlinked issues responsible:
The shallowing of the channel at Round Hill Creek
The lack of marina facilities available to facilitate trips to the reef
The lack of reef operators capable of taking passengers
Gladstone Area Promotion and Development Limited CEO Darryl Branthwaite shed some light on the three issues, saying they added up to one major problem.
"The access through Round Hill Creek is very limited for marine operators, and access is 75% of the problem here," Mr Branthwaite said.
"Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy have been really affected for a lengthy period of time with less reef operators going to Lady Musgrave ... some sand needs to be shifted around as the bars have built up over the last few years due to weather conditions and weather events ... it needs to be dramatically improved and quickly."
Mr Branthwaite said the call on the council to improve the situation was not new and explained a solution would continue to be pursued until one was found.
"(We) won't stop (trying) ... We'll keep banging away, trying to get some action."
Typically, the choice to stay out of concerns involving the competition between businesses is one many councils make.
It is understood, however, the shallowing of the channel at Round Hill Creek was a matter of creating infrastructure and the potential dredging of the area was being considered at today's meeting.
The potential of coastal bars to change due to weather and natural causes means the dredging of these bars is a financially expensive risk as well, with a real possibility any progress at Round Hill Creek could be reversed as soon as weather conditions changed.
Discovery Coast Tourism and Commerce president Amber Rodgers weighed in on the issue of access, confirming it was a major concern but far from the only one.
Ms Rodgers said even if the council decided to tackle the shallowing of the channel at Round Hill Creek today, the reality was tourism rates would not improve overnight.
"Council aren't the solution for tourism operations. If the access was changed today, but nothing else changed, we wouldn't get very far," she said.
"It's up to private investors to help, but you don't find those people walking down the street every day."
The DCTC president confirmed the changes needed to make small businesses sustainable in the area depended on investors willing to add to tourism.
"The reality is council are not going to go buy a new boat if access is improved. That's up to investors ... private people," she said.
Ms Rodgers said the volunteer organisation had been working tirelessly to make sure the access to the reef wouldn't impact the town, but realised it was not an easy fix.
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"I hope we can continue to be a thriving destination ... We've lobbied with levels of government as much as we can and given them as much information as possible, but it all comes down to 'how do you, as of tomorrow, have more seats going to the reef?'" she declared.
"The huge investment depends on a lot of people and the fact is, right now, we are seeing how having less seats (operators) going to the reef is affecting the rest of our businesses."