YEARS TAKEN TO ACQUIRE LADY MUSGRAVE PERMITS

Today’s announcement in the News-Mail that the region has taken a step forward in securing a day trip operation to Lady Musgrave Island comes as welcomed news however at the same time,  it’s frustrating to reflect on the many years of bureaucratic red tape that has held up this region’s most significant tourism opportunity.

This project has been a passion of mine since 2004 when the former allocated permits were lost after the former Lady Musgrave Cruises (LMC) operation was sold and relocated to the Town of 1770.

It’s relevant to explain at this stage that two permits are required to conduct a commercial operation to the lagoon and island:

  • A Federal permit from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) which allows a commercial operation to be conducted within the boundaries of the GBR: and
  • A State permit from the Queensland Parks & Wildlife Service – Marine Parks Division (DERM) which allows commercial access onto Lady Musgrave Island itself

Despite years of lobbying, both agencies steadfastly refused to issue any more permits and effectively this all but destroyed Bundaberg’s region’s branding as the ‘Southern Gateway to the Great Barrier Reef’ and cost the region millions upon millions of dollars in domestic and international tourism.

Finally, in February 2009 I decided to form the Lady Musgrave Task Force and invited some high profile stakeholders to participate including:

  • Former Federal MP, Paul Neville
  • State Member for Bundaberg, Jack Dempsey
  • Former Mayor, Lorraine Pyefinch
  • Former General Manager of Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism, James Corvan
  • Manager of the Port of Bundaberg, Jason Pascoe
  • Economic Consultant, Neil McPhillips

 The negotiations continued however even then, both authorities refused to budge.

Finally, on 26th November 2009 I called a special meeting of the Task Force and invited senior representatives from GBRMPA & the EPA to attend and to personally articulate why they were holding up progress on the No. 1 tourist attraction to our region. To say the least, it was a protracted and somewhat interesting discussion however at the end of the meeting both agencies finally relented and a few months later the additional permits were issued. The only drawback was that the EPA permit only allowed for 10 passengers to access the island at a time which, in reality, inhibited the commercial viability for any potential operator.

Having said that, at least the permits were finally secure and in the safe hands of Bundaberg North Burnett Tourism as the accredited Regional Tourism Organisation which would ensure that the permits remained operational from the Port of Bundaberg.

Since then, there has been considerable effort put into trying to attract an operator to utilise the permits and kick-start what will undoubtedly become the most significant tourism attraction to the region. A detailed Demand Analysis Study has been commissioned, an Expression of Interest document has been distributed and the proposal/opportunity has been highlighted in every strategic tourism document signed off by the Council and both the former and current State Governments.

In more recent times I’ve been hesitant to comment on the progress of the negotiations due to strict confidentiality requirements however today’s front page article announcing that the process has now been tidied up and that the aspirations of the Task Force are coming close to fruition is certainly encouraging and I’m sure will be most welcomed by all those who put in so much hard work over the past decade.

Here are a couple of links to a 2009 Media Release and 2010 News-Mail articles relating to the permit acquisition announcement:

Media Release – Lady Musgrave Task Force Established

Musgrave Tours a Real Possibility

Bundy to Musgrave Trip Relaunched

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