The Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) manages an extensive suite of island national parks in the Whitsunday and Mackay regions, part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area. The regions are a mecca for boating, yachting, diving, snorkelling and nature-based activity. More than 1,400,000 people visit the regions each year and this is growing. At some islands, visitor use is having an impact on the environment and affecting the quality of visitor experiences.
The Whitsunday and Mackay Islands Visitor Management Strategy has been developed to ensure that: tourism is environmentally sustainable the regions outstanding values are professionally presented visitors have a rewarding experience the QPWS, partner organisations and tourism industry work together effectively. Particular emphasis is placed upon integrated planning and policies across islands, beaches and the surrounding Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
The Strategy provides a policy framework for sustainable tourism and visitor use. Key initiatives include: Apply a system of visitor management settings to islands and sites to help guide management decision making, including permit assessment, site planning, facility development and presentation. Identify high use sites that will be managed in partnership with tour operators to ensure a very high standard of visitor facilities and services are provided. Identify key visitor destinations requiring new or upgraded facilities and information signage. Develop an investment plan that provides a strategic basis for seeking funding for facilities improvements from a range of public and private sector sources.
- Manage visitor use to sensitive sites through seasonal or permanent access closures.
- Establish mechanisms to protect cultural heritage sites and advance the interests of Traditional Owners.
- Establish a diverse range of camping opportunities for commercial operators and independent visitors.
- Ensure effective communication and engagement forums are in place between QPWS, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the tourism industry.
- Negotiate agreements with resorts adjoining national parks to ensure co-operative management, public access and contributions towards park management.
- Form a joint QPWS-GBRMPA-industry forum to investigate enhanced management of aircraft throughout the area.
- Set the scene for the potential introduction of the Tourism in Protected Areas (TIPA) initiative into the Whitsunday area.