Business leaders 'blindsided' by Teewah proposal
MEMBERS of the Rainbow Beach business community say they have been blindsided by a plan put to the State Government to slash the number of campers at Teewah Beach.
Prominent business leaders in the town said yesterday there had been a distinct lack of consultation about the proposal to cut the number of camping permits from 2300 to 1150 and cap the number of trips at 250 a day from the Noosa end of the beach.
Rainbow Beach Commerce and Tourism Association treasurer Nigel Worthington said yesterday the group did not support the proposal and contested any claim it was "unanimously” endorsed by the Teewah and Cooloola Working Group.
"I missed the last two meetings because I was on holidays,” Mr Worthington said.
"Only the people present at that meeting voted unanimously.”
And it was a proposal which could have a huge impact on the coast hot spot, with many visitors considering the beach to be a "through road” from Noosa to Rainbow, he said.
"It has the potential to reduce by 50 per cent the number of people who just intended to drive along the beach to visit us.”
Worse, the Rainbow Beach community had been left out of the conversation before any proposal was made to the State.
"There hasn't been any consultation,” Mr Worthington said.
And he understood the need and desire to protect the environment, he said this could be achieved through better policing of the beach or a slightly lower capping, not what has been put forward.
Long-time Rainbow businesswoman and owner of The Deck @ Sea Salt Ruth Modin agreed there had been a "severe” lack of communication about the proposal.
"This is the first I've heard about it,” she said yesterday.
What she did know was it would be detrimental to the town's economy.
"It's closer for them to come to Rainbow Beach (when they're camping),” she said.
"Of course it would have an impact.
"I can't see why it's necessary.”
Division 1 councillor Mark McDonald defended the proposal and said the restrictions were only for the southern end.
He said this would not affect business at the beach's northern end.
"The camping reduction will only affect 15 nights in the year,” he said. "We need to spread it across the year and we need to improve our camping experience.
"The experience is really starting to fail.”
And it was needed to protect the beach.
"I've sat with environmental scientists and marine biologists who have given me reports on sand quality ... and the amount of filth in the sand is significant.”
And wider consultation was still on the cards.
"We haven't gone out to the community yet; we're just collecting our data,” Cr McDonald said.
Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said no decision had been made.
"In August I accepted a request to meet with the Mayor of Noosa, representatives of Gympie Council and a small delegation from the Teewah and Cooloola Working Group.
"No commitments were made during the meeting regarding visitor or vehicle access numbers on Teewah Beach.
"There are currently no plans to restrict the number of visitors to the area.
"The Department of Environment and Science is currently reviewing the Great Sandy National Park Management Plan and Visitor Strategy.”
"Community consultation will be a part of that process, with consultation currently under way with First Nations peoples as the first step in the review.
"I would encourage the Noosa and Gympie Councils to continue to work together on this issue.”
RBCTA's Maureen Mitchell said any cap would have a big impact on the town's economy.
She said holidaymakers who come in from Noosa often work their way to Rainbow to enjoy the point of difference.
"It'll have a massive impact,” she said.
"If they cut the number allowed it will affect us greatly.
"We don't need them to ... decrease our numbers.”
There was no denying campers should not be littering the beaches with their rubbish and destroying the dunes, Mrs Modin said, but there were other ways to handle this - such as an increased ranger presence.
Consultation was also a point of note for Wolf Rock Dive owner James Nelson.
Mr Nelson said he agreed with the idea of preserving the environment "a bit better”.
But it is a solution now creating a new divide.
"There's now this environmental push and it's polarising communities,” Mr Nelson said.
He said there needed to be a wider discussion about how to achieve this without sacrificing key parts of the town's livelihood.
Noosa Parks and Noosa Shire Council, which both had members as part of the working group, were contacted for comment.