City of Greater Geraldton critical of lack of direction in Abrolhos Islands management plan draft

Phoebe PinGeraldton Guardian
Guests on Pelsaert Island in the Southern Group of the Abrolhos Islands.
Camera IconGuests on Pelsaert Island in the Southern Group of the Abrolhos Islands. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

The State Government’s plan to develop sustainable tourism at the Abrolhos Islands fails to outline a clear direction for the future of the archipelago, the City of Greater Geraldton says.

Councillors last Tuesday voted to endorse the City’s feedback on the 110-page Abrolhos Islands Draft Management Plan, which flags low-impact camping, tourism infrastructure and commercial projects as potential investment opportunities.

The submission recognised the plan’s success in identifying barriers to development — like creating accommodation options for tourists — but stated the document did not outline how these challenges would be overcome.

“The City would like the plan to demonstrate a commitment by State Government to working with the private sector to deliver eco-sensitive accommodation by emphasising the options that are available for this to occur,” the submission said. “The plan needs to actively explore in more detail the potential economic benefits of opening up the islands for sustainable tourism development.”

The submission was also critical of the plan for failing to outline the City’s role in managing the national park.

“The City was considered a key stakeholder in the inter-agency group meetings led by the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, however, neither its role nor the expectations of the City’s role are clearly defined in the plan,” the submission stated.

Mayor Shane Van Styn said the endorsement of the submission was a timely reminder of the significant role the Abrolhos Islands would play in the growth of local tourism opportunities.

“(Recently) it was two years to the day since we officially announced the national park being created in the presence of Mark McGowan,” he said.

“It has taken two years to get to this process ... and we hope we can continue on and achieve council’s long-held policy of attracting sustainable tourism to the Abrolhos Islands.”

Environment Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the State Government would now assess submissions, with a finalised management plan to be released in the coming months. She said the prospect of providing overnight accommodation facilities on the islands would be “worked through” as part of the review.

Ms Sanderson said the Abrolhos Islands were a “unique part of the world” which must be preserved and shared for generations to come.

“The priority for the government is maintaining the ecological value that is out there whilst supporting some sympathetic tourism opportunities, as well,” she said.

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