PARKS Victoria recently announced it is considering an application by a commercial tour operator, to operate boat tours of Wilsons Promontory Marine National Park from the beach at Norman Bay.
Pennicott Wilderness Journeys – a highly respected eco-tour operator based in Tasmania, would – should the proposal be successful, operate three amphibious eco-boats from Norman Bay at Tidal River.
Each of the three vessels would take a maximum of 32 passengers on a two to three-hour tour, departing from the northern end of Norman Bay. In peak times a maximum of three trips per day is proposed which, in total, would see 288 passengers per day take in the sights of Oberon Bay, Sea Eagle Bay, Anser Island, Skull Rock and the Glennie Group of islands.
A visit to www.pennicottjourneys.com.au reveals the company’s eco-credentials: – “As a business that showcases the natural environment, Pennicott Wilderness Journeys works hard to minimise its environmental footprint. All of our tours are 100% carbon offset and our energy use, water consumption and waste output are measured through the internationally recognised EarthCheck system. Pennicott Wilderness Journeys consistently exceeds EarthCheck’s global best practice level across all indicators.”
The $3.5 million venture is expected to generate $9.7 million in economic benefit for the local community per annum and would create 30 new full time jobs.
The proposal however has been met with mixed reactions.
Mark Walters, president of volunteer group Friends of the Prom, said he understands that the boat tours can be seen as an exciting opportunity for people to explore parts of the Prom that few people ever see, but warned this development comes with major negative impacts.
Mr Walters is particularly concerned that the commercial tour operation will take over the most popular beach on the Prom.
“That beach at the northern end of Norman Bay is one of the most beautiful and recognised locations on the Prom. Being close to Tidal River campground, it is also the most used,” he said.
He is concerned that driving and parking up to three large amphibious boats on this part of the beach on a daily basis will destroy the very thing that attracts thousands of visitors to the Prom each year – the pristine wilderness beachscapes .
“Each boat is 12 metres long by four metres wide and their presence on the beach each day will be ‘in your face’” he said.
Mr Walters is also concerned about the impact a large commercial operation will have on peaceful, low-key, Tidal River camping ground. He feels that the decision to launch these tours on the beach is being made in a ‘planning vacuum.’
“The current management plan for Tidal River is out of date and does not plan for such a large scale commercial operation” he said.
Mr Walters said that Parks Victoria has not responded to questions put to it about how the extra cars and visitors generated by the boat tours will be managed when Tidal River is already at bursting point in peak holiday times.
He feels that Parks Victoria has overlooked these concerns in its haste to smooth the way for the proposal.
“I have asked Parks Victoria that the application not be approved until there is an independent assessment done of the impact of the boat tour operation on the public’s enjoyment of the beach at the launching site, and how the extra visitors to Tidal River will be managed,” he said.
Parks Victoria is undertaking a comprehensive assessment of the proposal and this month is undertaking engagement to better understand community and visitor views on the proposal. A report on the engagement outcomes will be submitted to the Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change for consideration before a final decision is made on the proposal.
Those wishing to submit their views on the proposal and download the proposal are invited to complete the survey at this Parks Victoria post. The engagement period closed this Friday (March 24).