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.