Queensland town crippled by its own success

Over-tourism is a problem that’s affecting popular holiday destinations around the world and Noosa Shire on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast is among those feeling the heat.

Noosa is trying to manage a “building tsunami” of tourists, and residents have had enough, a local government conference heard this week.

Mayor Tony Wellington says Noosa Shire Council is considering a range of solutions, including a social contract, limits on events, introduction of paid parking and even the use of behavioural change experts.

Figures for 2018 show Noosa had 2.3 million visitors last year with a total spend of $950.6 million. A tourism levy on local businesses currently brings in $2.5 million a year for the peak destination body, Tourism Noosa.

Cr Wellington is the first to admit the tourism boom has brought economic benefits and is a problem that many other councils would dearly love to have.

But it’s been a double-edged sword for the community.

While Noosa’s pitched as the relaxation capital of Australia, in peak holiday time it’s more often chaos and congestion rather than R&R, Cr Wellington says.

“Marketing shows empty beaches and uncrowded surf but in holiday peak period that’s far from the truth,” he he told the Regional Cooperation and Development Forum on Sunday.

Community pushback

Short time lettings via Airbnb are not only causing problems for residents in terms of noise and reduced parking, but they are also reducing the number of properties available for long term rental, affecting rental prices and housing affordability.

In some areas of Noosa the percentage of short term stay properties is a high as 41 per cent, and in the suburb of Sunshine beach, 526 properties were on offer last January.

“Council’s currently seeing a significant pushback by some sectors of the community against the success of the tourism sector,” Cr Wellington said.

“There are residents who are increasingly frustrated by the traffic congestion, the crowds and the difficulty of getting access to key locations within their own shire. And if we leave that unchecked that resentment will continue to grow.”

There’s little relief in sight with the south east corner of Queensland expected to balloon by almost 2 million more people by 2041 and the Sunshine coast expecting growth of 200,000.

“In other words there’s a sort of a building tsunami of day trippers. Our issue is how do we deal with this great driving tourist market?” he says.

Seeking solutions

Noosa hosts a number of iconic events including the Noosa Food and Wine Festival and the Noosa Triathlon but Cr Wellington says council is currently getting community feedback a new policy which would see events in the shire limited.

“We’re under constant pressure from events businesses and organisations to approve more events, meanwhile residents are pushing back saying our public land’s being alienated, there are too many road closures, too many crowds,” he says.

Apart from trying to broaden the local economy so it’s not so reliant on tourism, council has also established a sustainable tourism stakeholder reference group consisting of representatives of 13 peak bodies representing business, the community, tourism and environmental groups.

“The aim of this group is to determine what sustainable tourism should actually look like for Noosa and how the hell we get there,” he says.

“We’re currently working on a joint declaration, a social contract with our community about what we believe sustainable tourism means for Noosa. “

Council is also looking at transport solutions including live traffic info, free buses and putting controllers on roundabouts.

“We’ve enlisted help from behaviour change experts because we know we have to change people’s expectations before they come into Noosa about how they move around,” Cr Wellington says.

Even paid parking, a big city solution Cr Wellington says council has always avoided, is on the table.

Cr Wellington told the conference council is still desperately seeking solutions, but short of “a shark attack or a natural disaster or global financial collapse” a silver bullet remains elusive.

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6 thoughts on “Queensland town crippled by its own success

  1. Tony Wellington is completely out of touch with dealing with the business operators and the residents of Noosa.
    We have been residents for the past 40 years, whilst there are times when the tourist is a problem , they have provided us with us with a paradise to live in, without the bush turkeys.
    Will be glad to see him go at the next election .

  2. Our family spends a lot of money each year coming to Noosa from overseas and I didn’t appreciate hearing the views expressed here by some locals. The council should be hell bent on making tourists welcome because without us your town would be dead. Stop listening to small minded locals who want to keep paradise all to themselves. Look at the big picture. We the tourists give you your paradise. Sounds like you need to drain the swamp in council.

  3. You put all of your eggs into hospitality and tourism, you made it so that’s the only industry propping the town up and now you’re whinging that you’ve got tourists! What did you expect!

    I also love how Wellington whinges about traffic too. Go live in Melbourne or Sydney and then come back and whinge about the traffic in Noosa, princess.

  4. As so often happens in these days of instant feedback and social media-type commentary, kneejerk reactions, cliches and insults flow on virtually any topic
    Overtourism is an issue for an increasing number of locations so surely the Council should be supported in looking at future solutions and options?
    You’ve got divergent options here, isn’t sorting the matter out better than splitting into camps?

  5. Six years ago, the then Noosa mayor Noel Playford declared shamelessly that elderly rich residents were welcome here, unlike young people who don’t have money or jobs!… 6 years on, his successor the new mayor Tony Wellington announced on local television that Noosa is at risk of overtourism and I quote, “ It is mostly about choosing the sort of people who come here and have the biggest spend, and appreciate what Noosa is offering! He also mentioned in the local paper that the town didn’t want a drive-in market that choked the streets with traffic creating parking problems. Instead seeking the high value domestic and international visitors who overnighted there.
    So I think you realise now why Noosa has such a snobby and elitist reputation in QLD, with our last two mayors coming out with such outrageous and embarrassing statements. No doubt, a lot of day trippers around QLD would be downright disgusted and offended by those latest insulting comment from Mr Wellington, as it’s not only wealthy tourists that appreciate what Noosa has to offer!

    Now Mr Wellington, it is time for you to wake up to yourself and stop blaming everybody else for Noosa’s problems, and be proactive about it. As you will know, your main problem is parking and it is easy to fix… Listen to your Noosa residents who where consulted few months ago and did come up with hundreds of great ideas , but all were ignored. For example council could build strategically positioned and camouflaged 2 or 3 storey parking stations at both ends of Hastings, Lions’s park, and the junction , and then you will realise that the choking congestion was only due to people driving around aimlessly for hours looking for that elusive parking spot.
    Time to be proactive Mr Wellington, get on with it.

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