Noosa’s ‘destination’ debate – about us, without us

Words matter. Do you live in Noosa because it’s a tourism mecca, or because it is a great ‘place’ to live?

Does Noosa need a Destination Management Plan (for Tourism) (DMP) or do we actually need a Noosa Shire Management Plan?

The term ‘Destination’ makes Noosa sound like somewhere to go.  But for us it’s a place to live. We see Noosa as our home, not as an economic resource.

The current Discussion Paper (DP) consultation by Noosa Council is designed to achieve a Destination Manager Plan. Surely, the first question should be “In ten years time, what should the Shire be like as a place to live?” 

If residents no longer want to live here, why would tourists want to visit?

While historically Noosa Council has funded Tourism Noosa, and recently agreed to funding of $2.6 million per year, it is legitimate to question why, when the benefits of tourism appear to be exaggerated and the non-financial ‘collateral’ costs largely ignored. 

It is also legitimate to ask why Tourism Noosa should be allowed to lead or control the planning process rather than it being Council or community led?

There is no doubt that tourism provides the Shire with economic benefits but tourism is not the dominant interest or employer in the Shire.

The DP does attempt to set out where the Shire is at present but mainly presents economic statistics. Social and environmental issues are more difficult to measure but we ignore them to our peril.

It is acknowledged that if residents are no longer supportive of tourism, the consequences can be unpredictable, or worse. 

Noosa residents are predominantly older and many are retired. They live here for the lifestyle, the weather and the natural environment. Many residents do not have any involvement with tourism, but tourists have an impact on their lifestyle. 

Residents see tourists as creating traffic congestion, parking problems and competition for infrastructure, beaches and other facilities. 

Short term tourists add other problems by introducing noise and disruption to residential areas and empty dwellings between lets which hollow out neighbourhoods.

Day trippers bring less economic benefit but can cause more disruption for residents.

Even younger people, who may obtain low paid employment in the tourist industry, find that they cannot find low cost accommodation near their employment and frequently have to travel from outside the Shire to work.

While adopting the regenerative tourism concept is to be applauded the primary focus is still on the visitors and tourism rather than on “the place” and its residents.

The regenerative tourism concept also will require considerable imagination to be applied and implemented in Noosa.

Clearly Noosa will have to embrace the “Aspirational” and/or the “Transformational” Strategies in the draft plan at the very least.

Addressing the relationships between the issues will require developing a mechanism to work collaboratively with the wider community to provide stewardship for “the place” called Noosa Shire. That is what Noosa Council is elected to do. 

An industry body, even if funded by Noosa Council, is not representative of the interests of residents.

Council needs a charter for this stewardship body which requires it to give priority to protecting the social, cultural and environmental values of the place while managing the economic aspects involved.

Council needs to  recognise that it is not keeping up with current community sentiment or community values by only implementing current planned Council initiatives and should reframe the DMP to set the direction and policies to guide “the place” and implement those policies before it gives priority to the visitor and tourism economy.

To implement plans to make Noosa Shire a world leading regenerative destination, Council needs to draw on things like the Noosa Biosphere, the declaration of a climate emergency and the net zero by 2026 target, and initiatives like its Pomona place-making project to give more meaning to the “Different by Nature” slogan. 

Council already has a range of relevant Plans, such as its 2017-27 Transport Strategy, where failure to implement has been the problem and monitoring has also failed. Good intentions are not enough.

The planning needed is clearly greater than just tourism. We really need a Noosa Shire Management Plan, but the implementation need is greater still, combined with meaningful performance measurement rather than waffly statements of intent.

Council will then need to work collaboratively with the wider community to implement this blueprint for our future and to monitor its performance.

From a residents’ perspective the process so far is about us, without us. That’s the first thing we need to fix.


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Enjoyed your comments Barry. No doubt many agree but some however may see some aspects of your valuable comments a little differently …. I do, but only to a point. Noosa on the ‘world tourist stage’ would get a gong, probably in the top 100 destination locations in the world. Many of us have travelled to those other destinations and return with the sense of knowing how good this Noosa is (was) by comparison. A big yes if speaking of 30 – 40 years ago, but that was then and in fairness to a world of Oz travellers who seek to enjoy something very special high on the list is Noosa. Its fair to say that Noosa is still a destination location, however NRC’s DMP needs a ‘restrictive’ management plan one that controls the numbers – including events – without the charm its an every day place. The one reason residents would not want to live here is because there are already too many of us here and 3000 more to come (with their cars). Some as I do, feel that we still need to ‘give way’ as a courtesy, to those travellers who have the opportunity and desire to visit Noosa attached to pre planned costly holiday. Those who choose to live within the bounds of a National treasure need to be able to share it as it is a destination location … otherwise move on. Give way to the visitors, despite the 3 decades of Council lack of understanding of what it means to be in charge of a National Treasure. Yes to a Council Blue Print is much needed – but for the right reasons – Cheers all

  2. Avatar

    Excellent comments Barry. I think the environmental aspects of Noosa’s ‘destination debate’ need to be emphasised in any analyses. In the 2021 submission I wrote for PBCA re NC’s Climate Change Response Plan, I made special mention of the M1 road chaos, as follows …
    “One serious major problem around transport and emissions has its origins outside the Shire, and demands solutions that embrace the ‘advocate to levels of government’ goal in Theme 1. On most, if not all days of the year, the M1 highway from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast is marked by choked traffic, inordinate delays and consequent frustration. The situation reaches farcical levels on Friday and Sunday afternoons. It seems a fair comment to say that Noosa Shire’s active encouragement of Brisbane-origin tourism, including day-trippers and weekenders, is a major cause of this situation which produces harmful effects including massive automobile emissions. PBCA believes that Noosa Council – and in a sense the Noosa community – bears some moral responsibility for encouraging and profiting from this ecologically damaging phenomenon, and consequently for working to remedy it. More pragmatically, the M1 situation, if it persists, could ‘kill the golden goose’ by dissuading people from traveling to Noosa.”
    I went on to urge Noosa Council to “take all steps possible to bring about a system of sustainable, convenient, affordable and acceptable travel between Brisbane and Noosa. That system should minimise fossil-fuel-based forms of transport, and should adopt, where feasible, such forms as high-speed rail, e-coaches for the M1 route, and a network of local e-buses for distribution of people from major hubs. Such a solution would – for jurisdictional, capability and financial reasons – need to involve collaboration at all three levels of government”.
    Regrettably, I didn’t make any mention of reducing the numbers of visitors coming from Brisbane … only their modes of travel. My serious oversight!

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