Why does Tourism Noosa ignore Noosa’s modern history?

Tourists will willingly queue in their vehicles for lengthy periods on Noosa Parade and Noosa Drive, then compete for limited parking, simply to get access to Hastings Street and Noosa Main Beach. What is the attraction? It can’t be the actual shops, as the Hastings Street precinct has been shifting from bespoke retailers and restaurateurs to familiar franchises for some time. Indeed, it’s rapidly turning into a Westfield shopping mall.

The real attractions are the “village feel” of the shopping precinct, beside one of the most picturesque beaches on the planet, and proximate to the headland section of the Noosa National Park. 

If one stands on Noosa Main Beach and looks eastwards, the view is framed by two protected landscapes. To the south is the Noosa headland, the most visited national park in Queensland and a massive economic driver for the local tourism economy. In the 1960s, Dr Arthur Harrold established the Noosa Parks Association (NPA) with the primary objective of preventing the council of the day from building a planned road around the water’s edge, from Hastings Street past Tea Tree, Granite Bay, Hells Gates and Alexandria Bay, all the way to Sunshine Beach. The council’s intention was to expedite development of the headland. 

The original Noosa National Park was created in 1939. In 1962, it was one of only two national parks on the Sunshine Coast. The small Noosa National Park incorporated just the high sections of Noosa headland, and nowhere did the national park meet the sea. Through a series of strategies, NPA succeeded in convincing the state government to expand the national park so that it included the shoreline, thus thwarting council’s development intentions. Then, thanks again to NPA efforts, the park was further enlarged, piece-by-inexorable-piece, to include Alexandria Bay and Paradise Cove, stymying developers such as T.M. Burke as well as sand mining interests. 

Looking northwards from Noosa Main Beach, stretching into the distance, is the largest vegetated dune system on the planet: the Cooloola Sandmass. Again, this was fought for, over decades, with NPA leading the charge against mining leases, logging permits, and development interests. 

So that’s the beauty of Main Beach: a view framed by nature not humans. But what about the retail precinct behind it? Well, there were also battles to prevent high-rise buildings here, again with NPA stalwarts leading the charge. Then the Playford-led Councils of 1988 to 1997 intentionally cemented that village feel via a radical planning scheme and set of local laws, all of which prevented overdevelopment and eschewed big city symbols. Noel was a key member of NPA. 

Many people come to Noosa and assume that it has always been the way it is now. Few visitors are aware that Noosa was idealised and fashioned through sixty years of strategizing, lobbying, and sheer effort. NPA also helped fight off proposals for a jet airport on Noosa North Shore, a revolving restaurant on Noosa Hill, and many other inappropriate developments.

Yes, I know that NPA has many detractors, some of them passionately so, but that’s a product of two things. First, NPA has been incredibly successful, and success inevitably brings resentment. These days it also leads to conspiracy theories supercharged via social media. Secondly, there will always be people who fail to appreciate the unique elements that make Noosa different to other coastal locales. Inevitably, those who simply want to exploit Noosa for profit, or who wish to turn it into the Gold Coast, will begrudge NPA’s influence. 

I have heard people argue that NPA shouldn’t meddle in politics. But every environment organisation worth their salt is attempting to influence political decision-making. That’s the only way that real conservation gains are made. 

I believe most people who come to Noosa – either to live or to visit – do so because Noosa is unique. Noosa’s historic approach to development allows the natural landscape to aesthetically dominate the scenery. Almost half the shire is today in some form of environmental protective covenant. Noosa is now a treasure trove of regional ecosystems, not to mention endangered species such as koalas, acid frogs and greater gliders. None of this happened by accident. 

It was Noosa’s very distinctiveness that underpinned the successful de-amalgamation campaign. Noosa residents said, loudly and proudly, that they didn’t want Noosa to become overdeveloped like our neighbouring shires to the south. 

What of Tourism Noosa, then? Why isn’t this organisation incorporating Noosa’s modern history as a key plank of its marketing strategy? After all, it’s a terrific story of community achievement. When I travel, I enjoy learning about a place’s history, because it helps me better appreciate what I am experiencing. 

Imagine if Noosa was promoted as a place thoughtfully designed by a caring, passionate, environmentally aware community. Imagine if Noosa was viewed as the lucky home of one of Australia’s pioneering, longest standing, and most successful volunteer environmental organisations. 

Noosa’s history needs to be more than just a hard-to-locate page on the Tourism Noosa website. It should be front and centre of TN’s marketing strategy. In doing so, the community would then be woven into the visitor experience, bringing those two cohorts closer together, and perhaps even reducing friction between them. 

The modern history of Noosa stares Tourism Noosa in the face every day. Every time they pump out promotional images of Tea Tree Bay, Main Beach or even Hastings Street, they are capitalising on the efforts of Noosa locals. Indeed, if it weren’t for sixty years of Noosa Parks Association effort, Tourism Noosa wouldn’t have much to market Noosa with. 

(Disclosure: I am a life member of Noosa Parks Association, and proud of it.)


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Avatar

    As usual Tony – well said. Noosa would not be the environmental treasure we all enjoy today if not for the fortitude and leadership of the community by Noosa Parks Association for over 60 years. Noosa’s environmental protection history should be promoted by Tourism Noosa for sure.

  2. Avatar

    Excellent quick summary of why Noosa is the absolute exemplary standout with its natural beauty surrounding us – it’s the reason why Noosa is a major draw card and why most international travellers know the name Noosa.
    It didn’t happen without decades of environmental conservation – that took enormous efforts from our local heroes, including Tony and Noel Playford plus of course the incredible visionary
    Michael Gloster.
    These locals should be lauded not lampooned as we saw in recent election – by those who mostly admit they wanted us to stay amalgamated to the huge development Council to our South. They have mercenary agendas like saboteurs.
    Tony asks the right question.
    Why do businesses come here to profit yet dismiss our heritage including the very group that fought the hard battles?
    Why the continued attacks on the NPA when their successful approach to conservation should be taught to all school children.
    The history of Noosa over the last 60 years is worth teaching.
    No other Council has over 40% of land protected – more like 7%.
    Noosa residents who are unaware would be interested in this history and then hopefully educated enough to fight back against inappropriate Developers or any individuals/groups that attack our very nature.
    Such as the lately arrived group run by a Tradie from Frankston Victoria called MyPlace. They with the help of opportunists attacked our current Mayor and Deputy relentlessly – with disgusting graphics and nonsensical accusations – with the NPA featuring high on their agenda as a target.
    All candidates next State election for Noosa should acknowledge the incredible contributions of the NPA and promise to assist them in their future endeavours at State level.
    Omitting our environment is omitting the heart and soul of Noosa – that drives our success in Tourism and business.
    Noosa Tourism would do well to listen to Tony and not follow their own purely commercial exploitative agenda that sees us inundated with too many events.

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