Superyacht Australia has announced changes to the Whitsundays Plan of Management, which mean that there are greater opportunities for superyachts to visit the area found within the Great Barrier Reef. SuperyachtNews speaks to a number of representatives from the region, who are working together to make Australia as attractive as possible for superyachts.
The Whitsundays Plan was first introduced in 1998 in order “to protect and conserve the values of a particular area of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park associated with the area around the Whitsunday Island Group.” The Whitsunday Islands are the most heavily trafficked region of the Great Barrier Reef, and have previously had a number of restrictions, including no superyachts over 35m being able to access the area. The changes (announced this week) will mean an increase in the amount of superyacht anchorages in the region, as well as allowing easier access for larger vessels.
Ports North are an organisation responsible for developing and managing marinas and ports throughout Australia, including the Ports of Cairns, Cape Flattery, Karumba, Mourilyan, Skardon River, Quintell Beach, Thursday Island, Burketown and Cooktown. David Good, manager of operations, explains how these amendments are a result of a campaign by members of the superyacht industry in the region. “The new anchorages are an acknowledgement of the low impact superyachts have due to their design, maintenance, crew training standards and the small number of passengers they carry. The Plan of Management did not consider superyachts when they looked at potential capacity of vessels over 35m when they were originally drawn up a number of decades ago.” The new anchorage facilities are outlined in the above image.
“Short-term we will have the domestic superyachts staying and cruising in Australia this winter season instead of going to the likes of Fiji, Tahiti and other locations in the South Pacific due to previous limited cruising access in the Whitsundays."
The amendments to The Whitsundays Plan, argues Cameron Bray, managing director of Northrop & Johnson Australia, will have an immediate positive effect on the region. “Short-term we will have the domestic superyachts staying and cruising in Australia this winter season instead of going to the likes of Fiji, Tahiti and other locations in the South Pacific due to previous limited cruising access in the Whitsundays,” he explains.
Bray also sees the news as part of the ongoing strategy to encourage cruising in the area. “Long-term, we will see international superyachts over the next 12 months developing itineraries for their owners in Australia particularly focused around the Whitsundays and Great Barrier Reef locations. Further, if we are able to get a solution on the charter tax for foreign flagged vessels, we will start to see large charter companies setting up office in Australia due to the new cruising and chartering opportunities that were not existent in the past.”
This is a huge result for the superyacht lobbying community in Australia, who recently compiled an Economic Impact Study (EIS) of superyachts that outlined that the superyacht industry contributed almost $2 billion dollars to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016. “Measuring the economic and employment impact of this is key to having a voice with politicians and government departments,” adds Good. He points out that due to the previous restrictions on larger vessels, the Whitsundays had garnered a reputation for being difficult to navigate. He believes this will now change as more superyachts visit the area and are able to cruise hassle-free.
The importance of the study cannot be underestimated, as it provides cold, hard facts about the value of superyachts to the country. “Since the EIS has been released, the Government has a real dollar value of the industry, with conservative modelling showing the potential for growth with various policy change,” adds MaryAnne Edwards, CEO of Superyacht Australia. “Measuring the economic and employment impact of this is key to having a voice with politicians and government departments.”
Moving forward, there are a number of restrictions that the Australian superyacht market must work to change. “Removing restrictions on charter for visiting superyachts in Australia is key to unlocking huge potential for Australia and attracting more vessels to the South Pacific,” says Good. “We are not requesting any government investment, just the removal of red tape which will unlock an additional 11,800 full time jobs and $1.64 billion economic injection within 5 years. It makes a compelling argument, especially when a lot of the jobs will occur in regional Australia, traditionally where there is a higher unemployment rate.”
“We are seeing owners looking for safer, uncrowded, pristine cruising grounds in countries with stable economies and political climates. The Australian government and the rest of the South Pacific welcome superyachts and have invested heavily over the past 10 years to ensure the vessels that come our way enjoy the experience they are looking for and that Australia has the capability to service their every need.”
Superyacht-friendly regulations with be complemented by a number of high-profile events in the area - such as the 2018 Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast - and the wake following on from New Zealand winning the America’s Cup, the region is very much on the radar for owners wishing to travel and engage with an area a little further afield.
“We are seeing owners looking for safer, uncrowded, pristine cruising grounds in countries with stable economies and political climates. The Australian government and the rest of the South Pacific welcome superyachts and have invested heavily over the past 10 years to ensure the vessels that come our way enjoy the experience they are looking for and that Australia has the capability to service their every need,” says Bray.
The Whitsundays amendments to regulations are a constructive step for the market in Australia. The collaborative effort of the various representatives to lobby the government and influence regulation is indicative of an industry that is moving forward. The positive influence of superyachts on the Australian economy goes hand in hand with the growing need for fresher cruising grounds, alleviating the overcrowding found in the Mediterranean and Caribbean. For Bray, the area is ideal for superyachts and is ripe for visiting vessels. “Australia has it all and as the geographic halfway point between the Mediterranean and Caribbean, it makes perfect sense for yachts to engage in what Australia has to offer.”
Image one: The Great Barrier Reef.
Image two: The Whitsunday Anchorage Map (courtesy of Superyacht Australia)