Noosa Matters has recently had a lot to say about the many telltale signs of over-tourism that have begun to plague Noosa and undermine the lifestyle of residents. A significant contributor to this is the assembly line of ‘event’ tourism; “Run it, advertise it, and they will come.” And, indeed, they do come. Lots of them.
Event tourism was first introduced to even out the highs and lows of tourism numbers over a year in between school holiday periods. But that was 30 years ago, yet events continue to expand across the calender.
This year, at least twenty-four events are scheduled in Noosa. The first event on the calendar, the Noosa Summer Swim (18-19th February) took place two weeks after the end of interstate Christmas school holidays. It attracted 2500 swimmers and 500 supporters. Noosa residents got to access Main Beach unhindered for one weekend before the swim.
This was rapidly followed by the two-week Festival of Surfing running from 3-12 March and Noosa Ultra Trail 23-26 March, boasting 85% of its participants coming from outside the local area. Perusal of the Noosa Event Calendar, which does not include all events held, confirms that this intensity of event tourism is year-round. The perception that there is no longer any “down time” in Noosa is confirmed by the calendar and by the residents’ frustration.
Some events are virtually duplicated, which begs the question, are they needed? For example, the Ultra Man event (13-15 May) is – to all intents and purposes – a smaller version of the Noosa Tri. Many events which started by being one, or two-day, events have got bigger and longer over the years, increasing their impact on the community. For example, the Noosa Tri which used to be a fun local weekend event, has morphed into a corporate 5-day extravaganza, directly impacting locals for three weeks, when set up and pull down is factored in. It boasts 11 events, 13 000 competitors and 30 000 spectators. How can an event of that size be a good thing in a tiny, environmentally fragile place like Noosa? The impact of the Noosa Tri is now so horrific, many locals leave town when it’s on, or choose not to leave their homes, negatively impacting local business.
In recognition of event over-tourism, Noosa Council publicly undertook to not add any more events to the Noosa Event Calendar. Unfortunately, the Council disregarded this undertaking, adding the Great Italian Food and Vino Festival last year and the Noosa Concours D’Elegance this year, as well as approving more cycling and running events in the hinterland. It seems money, power, business, and tourism continue to exert undue influence over the Council. If the needs of the environment and residents were at the forefront of Council decision making, one would expect consideration would be given to a reduction in the size and number of events, rather than supporting the unrelentless growth of the event tourism juggernaut.
Key roads are now shut down for 3 events during the year. In addition, analysis of events and school holiday data reveals that for at least half the year, weekend access to key public assets like Main Beach is hindered. It seems, corporate greed and tourism always trumps local needs and lifestyle. Rather than simply calculating the economic benefit of event tourism (and wouldn’t we all like to know how that is calculated?), it would be interesting to do a complete and detailed cost/benefit analysis including the cost of rate payer subsidies to event tourism and the costs associated with environmental degradation, reduced resident lifestyle and pressure on landfill etc.
I suspect if this was done, the so-called benefits of event tourism – already trickling into too few local pockets – would be significantly reduced.
No, we don’t want to shut Noosa down, just keep a sense of balance that tips in favour of the people who actually live here and the environment we came here for.