No More Business as Usual
Do we want to encourage business development in the Redlands, and if so, what sort?
What we don’t want is for Redlands to become a dormitory town where more and more folk have to commute outside the area for work. This is inconvenient for commuters, adds to our traffic problems and takes business and prosperity out of the Redlands. Unfortunately over 60% of our residents leave the City each day to work elsewhere. We can instead encourage businesses to set up shop within our boundary. Making it a pleasant place to work is not incompatible with making it a pleasant place to live.
One of the industries that readily achieves that dual aim is tourism. The more attractive a place is for tourists the more liveable it becomes for its residents. Enhanced amenities, well-preserved natural features and a vibrant arts and cultural scene that are popular with tourists, also enhance the liveability of the area for the community as a whole. And I want to show that tourism is an industry that has largely been ignored by Council in last four years, yet it has more potential than any other.
We need to focus our attention first on North Stradbroke Island because the State Government is balanced on a knife edge and the decision to stop sandmining on North Stradbroke Island by 2019 could be overturned if the Katter Bill is successful or if the LNP win government. Plus there is a new and inexperienced Councillor, Peter Mitchell, in charge of Division Two.
It’s important that the response to the cessation of sandmining through tourism promotion, infrastructure planning and rejuvenation necessary following mining and Council neglect, is fully and urgently optimised. Also there are State government funds available, along with State and Federal grant monies that can be exploited to ensure a good transition from mining to tourism. With the closure of sand mining on North Stradbroke Island and declaration of 80 per cent national park by 2026, we can make good the shortfall in tourism infrastructure, repair the damage from overuse and get our beautiful island back.
These visitation statistics – Tourism Opportunities – confirm what many tourist operators in the Redlands and surrounding areas generally – along with the peak tourism bodies of Queensland – have been saying for decades: that Straddie is chronically under-marketed and lacks the necessary branding as a tourist destination, both in the domestic and international markets.
Minister for the Environment, Dr Steven Miles, says:
“Straddie has the potential to be a world class tourism destination just like Fraser Island. It is inconceivable now that we would allow sand mining on Fraser. Sand mining came to an end there in the 1970s and now it is one of our greatest tourism assets.”
Straddie is in close proximity to two of the biggest tourist draw cards in Australia: The Gold Coast (902,000 visitors annually) and Brisbane (1.126 million visitors annually) These are big numbers for us to tap into. The visitation figures for Brisbane alone easily outstrips Cairns, Port Douglas, the Great Barrier Reef, the Whitsundays and Townsville combined. Moreover Brisbane’s numbers increased 13% in 2015. Not to forget of course, the 3.4 million potential visitors that live in south-east Queensland.
How many visitors to the Gold Coast realize how close they are to the second largest sand island in the world, or that they have the chance of seeing koalas, kangaroos, rays and turtle in their natural setting? How many Brisbane visitors know that Straddie has the closest surfing beaches to the CBD? Properly managed and marketed, the tourism industry on Straddie has the potential to tap into these two international tourist drawcards and easily make up the shortfall from the cessation of mining to make a massive contribution to the island’s and Redland’s future.
We’ll continue this discussion next week with some examples of how other areas have successfully promoted tourism. We’ll also look at some of the key features of the Redlands and its islands that have tourism potential and how it can be exploited.
Let’s ensure we adopt the right attitude to tourism and its entrepreneurs and investors
After four years of Mayor Williams’ tyranny, it’s understandable that many of us are wary of any project she has a hand in and be similarly suspicious of those folk she has any dealings with. After seeing how the well-accepted need for a rejuvenated departure point for Straddie, grew to a proposal for a new town of 10,000 people reclaimed from the bay, such caution is well justified.
However, we must be careful as such an attitude can carry some unwarranted assumptions that can inhibit progress. What I’m saying is that we shouldn’t think that because this or that proposal is backed by Williams, that it is automatically bad or because this person or organisation had dealings with the Mayor, that they can’t be trusted.
After spending four years watching the Mayor’s every move, it’s all too easy to slip into the habit of looking at any proposal of hers over-critically. As though ‘there be dragons’ everywhere we look. So instead of carefully weighing up the pros and cons of new initiatives, considering what’s right about it as well seeing what’s wrong with it, we condemn it out of hand, just “because we see the grubby fingerprints of Williams all over it”.
Another danger for those of us that wish to promote a healthier set of priorities and objectives for the Redlands than that generally promoted by Williams, is that we can appear to be anti-business and I don’t think we should allow ourselves to be seen that way. As a political objective it’s not fruitful but it’s also unworthy because business brings other benefits like employment and prosperity. Instead of being seen as anti-business, what we want to be promoting is the right kind of business. Let’s look at an example:
The Royal Qld Yacht Squadron (RQYS) at Manly is Queensland’s biggest yacht club and is host to many national and international sailing regattas. The club has a Sailing Academy that teaches sailing to students from schools around Brisbane and plays host to many youth training camps for teams from Junior and Youth through to Olympic level from Australia and overseas.
There are existing sheds, buildings and land, currently leased by the sandmining company, Sibelco at Deanbilla Bay, just south of Dunwich which includes accommodation and large storage sheds.
RQYS has made an application to turn this area into a sailing facility and live-in camp with the idea of using part of the bay south of Peel Island as staging ground for sailing in all its forms, including introductory sailing programs, sail racing and as a regatta destination.
This is an opportunity to grow participation in the environmentally friendly sport of sailing across a wide demographic of competitors and spectators alike. It will provide ongoing employment opportunities to people on the island where around 107 jobs are threatened by the cessation of sandmining and will boost the local economy through increased visitation. It will help provide national and worldwide promotion of North Stradbroke Island for tourism and as a world class sailing venue with first class courses and facilities.
It nevertheless has received a barrage of criticism just because the developer’s mayor is involved. Of course, as its many critics have said, it must pass muster in regard to real estate values and rental agreements; it must be approved by the Quandamooka Yoolooburrabee Aboriginal Corporation who manage the native title interests of the original owners in the area along with other stakeholders on the island. Environmental Impact issues to be addressed for this proposal include assessing the effects of increased boating activity and moorings on oyster leases and adjacent marine habitat. Then there are issues concerning public access to the bay and foreshores.
Mayor Williams is wrong in announcing this project without first involving the local community and this is solely where any criticism should have been directed. We want no more secret meetings and deals with developers on the quiet and we must insist that workshops and working groups involve all Councillors and stakeholders and that they be given enough time to make proper consideration and provide feedback.
After approvals from the relevant stakeholders and properly assessed plans and controls in place, I contend this will be an ideal sports tourism oriented activity for the island and I urge everyone to support it. Frankly I was horrified to see this – the first major post-mining proposal put forward for the island – to be castigated by so many. Especially by those on the island itself.
It’s not as though its critics came up with any good reasons why it should not go ahead. What does it matter what occupation the Commodore of RQYS follows? What does it matter that RQYS is a very wealthy club? And frankly, talking about this proposal as if it’s another Toondah Harbour in the making is ludicrous.
RQYS, despite its wealth, is a not for profit sailing club. And if we care to look, it already has a good track record in environmental management in the Redlands. In the late 1980s they acquired ‘Browns’, a run-down 1.1 hectare property on the north-east tip of Russell Island. Take a look at the following to see what has become of it now: http://www.rqys.com.au/about/our-locations/canaipa/
When tourism or leisure activity entrepreneurs study where to set up shop, it’s vital that they see that their investment and hard work will be accepted by the local community in order to gain the necessary support. I was in the tourism industry for most of my working life and I can tell you that tourism and leisure oriented activities can only thrive in a positive environment or investors will simply take their initiatives and money elsewhere.
The island is losing its major employer with all the usual heartache and displacement for the workers and their families that this will entail. For goodness sake let us view any replacement activity objectively, irrespective of who used it first for political purposes. As areas of the island that have been closed off for 70 years, once again become available, this is the sort of activity that we should welcome.
When we complain we should consider what the philosopher, Julian Baggini wrote: Complaint is a directed expression of refusal to accept that things are not as they ought to be … it can be negative, trivial and pointless or a positive, constructive force.
Sandmining is due to finish within the next three years. Please let’s ensure we have lots of those positive, constructive forces to help make up the economic and employment shortfalls.
So, why tourism?
I believe tourism is one of the key industries we should be promoting. Not just for Straddie and Peel but for the Redlands generally. Unlike many businesses, tourism and leisure oriented businesses are ‘multiple benefit generators’, in that they produce across the board advantage:
- Through user-fees from National Parks, entrance fees, taxes and levies, they provides funds for conserving the environment
- They provide improved facilities not just for the benefit of visitors but for everyone’s use. Eg Good camping facilities, parkland, capacity sports ground, proper bikeways, bayside walking trails and boardwalks
- They generate economic growth generally as proceeds flow directly back into the local community, not to big business outside the area
- They provide local employment
- More visitors makes for a more comprehensive and viable public transport system
Note: All commentary and views, political and otherwise, are mine and not those of RQYS or any other person or organisation.