Noosa councillor candidate and prominent local businessman Andrew Squires says the impact of tourism on the Noosa environment and lifestyle needs a rational policy response from the council and not reaction based on personal opinion.
“I am concerned about using the word ‘overtourism’ or emotive terms like ‘Noosa is choking’ since they suggest a crisis situation,” Mr Squires said. “The truth is that we need more hard evidence of problems so we can develop a research-based and balanced approach to the issue.
“I’m also concerned that the ‘overtourism’ mantra is leading to declarations from some people that Noosa needs a “visitor cap” and “volunteer citizen scientists” to gauge an acceptable limit on the number of people visiting the region.
“Noosa needs a rational approach to tourism not gung-ho approaches based on emotion and opinion.”
Mr Squires said the “Noosa is choking” outburst came after the failure of the Sustainable Tourism Stakeholder Reference Group which had met for 18 months without being able to reach any agreement on tourism.
“Tourism is by far the greatest contributor to the Noosa economy and my position is that there needs to be a robust inquiry into the sector,” he said. “If I’m elected in March, I’ll urge fellow councillors to commission an external independent investigation to assess the present impacts of tourism and to provide projections for the next 10 years.
“The review will also propose an effective management strategy to guide Noosa Council’s approach to tourism. This process will not begin from an assumption that Noosa is “choking” nor that the solution is putting a “cap” on visitors, which would be difficult in a country where freedom of movement is a right.
“Any review needs to begin from a position of genuine enquiry and be properly researched,” he said. “The last thing Noosa needs are groups attempting to drive the whole shire in a direction that may be far from its best interests.”
Mr Squires pointed to a recent survey by Tourism Noosa that showed 80 percent of Noosa residents approving of tourism because “it's good for the community and economy” and an identical number agreeing that tourism contributes to increased property values. The same survey found that more than 40 percent of businesses believed they could not function without tourism.
“We need to take tourism out of the realm of public speculation and ensure the council takes steps to better manage the sector with regard to the consequences on the community, the environment and the economy,” Mr Squires said.