Great Keppel Investment: an example of tourism development ‘adjacent’ to national parks in the southern Great Barrier Reef – National Parks Association of Queensland

Great Keppel Investment: an example of tourism development ‘adjacent’ to national parks in the southern Great Barrier Reef

Author: Karin Cox

Photography: DSDILGP

Appreciating the beauty and diversity of the southern Great Barrier Reef will soon be even easier following the Miles government’s recent announcement of plans to reinvigorate Great Keppel Island. After extensive community consultation with stakeholders and the Woppaburra TUMRA Aboriginal Corporation, the Miles government this week unveiled a master plan to inject $30 million to redevelop Great Keppel Island (Woppa) within the southern Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (GBRMP), off Yeppoon.

While not part of the protected Keppel Bay Islands National Park or KBI (Scientific) Park, where an innovative reef rehabilitation project is underway, Great Keppel Island, the traditional homeland of the Woppaburra people, is part of the larger GBRMP. The island will remain largely undeveloped on its eastern side, protecting its natural values while allowing for important safety and infrastructure upgrades. The plan aims to champion the island’s rich history, cultural heritage, and natural environment, while encouraging jobs and economic growth for locals.

Dr Sonny Van Issum, Woppaburra Elder, Historian and Chairperson of the Woppaburra TUMRA Aboriginal Corporation, said, “We are pleased that this plan gives us a blueprint of how to develop Woppa in a sustainable, respectful and environmentally friendly way.

Community and stakeholder consultation was key to the development approval process.
Community and stakeholder consultation was key to the development approval process. (Image: DSDILGP)

“Our people have a spiritual attachment to the islands and cultural knowledge that has been passed down through generations.

“With the recent commencement and expansion of our ranger program, we are well placed to play a major role, alongside the state government and other stakeholders, in implementing this plan and caring for our Country.”

The plan will also improve access for scientific study in the southern Great Barrier Reef and includes:

  • Cultural, educational and nature-based experiences to encourage longer stays on the island
  • Sustainable tourism development to attract domestic and international visitors, including new eco resorts and precincts and a village centre
  • Better access around the island, with new boardwalks, walking trails, interpretative signing and wayfinding signs
  • An enhanced arrival gateway, with options to improve maritime access being investigated
  • Infrastructure upgrades, including a new wastewater treatment plant.

“The National Parks Association of Queensland welcomes efforts to draw people closer to the natural world, allow access for scientific study, and showcase the natural and cultural heritage of the southern Great Barrier Reef, particularly where any major tourism development is ‘adjacent’ to national parks, which is consistent with the management principles set out in the Nature Conservation Act 1992,” said Chris Thomas, NPAQ’s CEO. “We’d hope that reinvigorating Great Keppel Island leads to broader community support for protecting the southern reef ecosystem and maintaining the integrity of the surrounding national park islands.” See the final Great Keppel Island (Woppa) Concept Master Plan here. Or read the Ministerial Media Statement.

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