Tourism chairman: Reef needs recovery programs

Tourism Whitsundays chairman says something will need to happen to help coral recover in the Whitsundays.
Tourism Whitsundays chairman says something will need to happen to help coral recover in the Whitsundays. Ocean Rafting

SOMETHING will need to be done about the Great Barrier Reef.

That is the message from Tourism Whitsundays chairman Al Grundy who says it's now time to look at how the reef can recover post-Cyclone Debbie.

The message comes on the back of a month where the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority relaxed the rules on touching coral in the wake of cyclone damage.

"Ordinarily you're not allowed to touch the coral but the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority relaxed those rules to allow dive operators to turn coral back up the right way so it can regenerate,” a spokesperson for Steven Miles, Minister for Environment and Heritage Protection and Minister for National Parks and the Great Barrier Reef said.

However as of April 26, the relaxed rules have ended and the normal rules apply.

Mr Grundy met with Dr Miles in the Whitsundays yesterday and said he stressed the importance of reef recovery programs.

"The legislation was... you just have to leave it (damaged coral) and let nature take its course but what's happened now is the realisation that we can't just wait, we need to intervene,” he said.

"The important thing for us to get across was that for everyone to continue to proser we need to look as quickly as possible to implement some restoration programs.

"As technology advances and we have better scientific information, the opportunity for us are... programs such as coral planting and regeneration programs.”

Mr Grundy said the relaxed stance on touching coral could open the doors for other things.

"The first noticeable change in government policy was that straight after the cyclone, they allowed industry and the national parks who were actually going into the park to roll over coral and put it back up right,” he said.

"That's a type of intervention that in the past wouldn't have been allowed.”

Mr Grundy said he was pleasantly surprised by strong marine tourism numbers through April and had praise for the staff and workers but also warned it will still take time to get the tourism industry where it was once was.

"We'll probably be about six months of so before we hit our straps again,” he said.

As attention shifts to how the tourism industry will get back on its feet, Mr Grundy said important steps had already been undertaken.

"An infrastructure group has already been set up and had their first meeting. As the government grants come in and add funding, we will start to highlight the projects that we see are going to give us the best outcomes and then there will be fully funded projects set up to get under way,” he said.

Mr Grundy specifically mentioned coral restoration coral gardening type programs as things that could benefit from the funding.

Remaining positive, Mr Grundy said good things would come out of bad and that funding would also open the door for things like additional walking tracks on Whitsunday Island, additional lookout points and underwater activities.

"We have the year of the politicians and Great Barrier Reef Marin Authority and there's a real willingness to get on the job which is wonderful,” he said.


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