Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fraser musings

You need to take care when booking a tour of Fraser Island. Our first attempt resulted in us being picked up from our house early in the morning by an old 42 seat coach. We were so gobsmacked we couldn't collect our thoughts initially except to utter 'this is not what we were expecting.' The driver was running late and threw his coach around the next couple of corners. We got off at the next pick up point and walked home. Life is too short to suffer that amount of discomfort! Coach travel is deffo not our thing!

Having now been round the island I wonder about the wisdom of allowing vehicles on there at all. Does a coach and its sheer bulk and weight, cause more environmental stress to a sensitive habitat than say 7 x Range Rover type things? Is 40 odd people pouring off at stopping points more damaging than the 4/6 at a time from 4WD vehicles? I don't know.

Should vehicles be allowed on a World Heritage site at all? I guess it is all about finding that fine balance, trying to accommodate all while keeping stewardship of a world treasure uppermost.

Who owns the various tour companies operating on Fraser Island? Who owns the ferries? How are the operators licenses dispensed? Who by? I don't know the answers to any of these questions that nag away while I try to get my thoughts in order.

Stonehenge in the UK is another World Heritage site that is having difficulty in coping with visitor pressures. Now they only allow restricted pedestrian access which I think is something Fraser Island is going to have to address at some point soon.

I know Stonehenge is a 10 acre site and Fraser Island is much much larger - its 120km x 15kms. but both are World Heritage sites and both are under severe pressure. On Fraser Island's agenda must be either pedestrian access only, which although problematical, due to the islands size, and difficulty in walking on some of the soft sandy tracks, has to be seriously considered. Failing that some form of 'green' transport must be provided around the island.

Perhaps whoever dishes out the World Heritage Site awards should also be dishing out more stringent guidelines/requirements for visitor pressure management that arises from such an award being made.

Whatever, its a problem that isn't going to go away.

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