Joint Media Release with Jenny Macklin Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs
A world heritage listed rainforest environment will be protected and Indigenous jobs created under a $10 million plan to build an eco-tourism transit hub outside the entrance to the iconic Mossman Gorge north of Cairns.
The plan was announced today by Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin during a two-day visit to Cape York Indigenous communities.
“More than 500,000 people visit Mossman Gorge each year, but there are long-standing access problems for tourist buses and cars along a narrow road which cuts right through the middle of the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community,” Ms Macklin said.
“The Australian Government’s Indigenous Land Corporation (ILC) has purchased a nine hectare site fronting the main access road away from the gorge and abutting the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community at the edge of the World Heritage listed Daintree Rainforest.
“The ILC plans to develop the site to international tourism standards to provide proper car and bus parking away from environmentally sensitive areas and to build an eco-friendly electric bus transit system to the gorge, an environmental and Indigenous interpretive centre and art gallery, caf? along with guided culture walks.
“This major eco-tourism plan will deliver significant economic benefits to the Mossman community and will provide training and real jobs in the tourism and hospitality industries to local Indigenous people,” Ms Macklin said.
“The Australian Government understands that Indigenous economic development is critical to closing the gap in life opportunities that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
“The projections show that 45 jobs in retail, hospitality, tourism guiding and interpretation, administration, cleaning, bus maintenance and a host of other work, will be created during the tourism low season rising to 70 jobs during the high season.
“The centre is expected to open in late 2009,” the Minister said.
ILC Chairperson Shirley McPherson said the purchase of the sugar cane block as a site for the eco-tourism transit hub signalled the start of extensive work with the local community, Cairns Regional Council, the tourism industry and a range of Australian and Queensland Government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The broad concept plan is on the table, but now the detailed work will begin on what is a nationally significant and sensitive project and it is critical that we have a range of inputs so that we get this right,” Ms McPherson said.
“Obviously, the ILC has completed a detailed business analysis that demonstrates the project is viable and sustainable.
“Our research has shown that at the current rate of growth, visitor numbers will climb from 500,000 people a year now to 780,000 people by 2010.
“Approximately 200,000 vehicles travel through the Mossman Gorge Aboriginal Community every year on their way to the gorge, yet there are only 25 parking spaces on a council road reserve.
“In addition the ILC is proposing to establish a training facility targeting skills shortages in the tourism and hospitality industries.
“What gets built, how it gets built, how the interests of users will be looked after, how the tourism transit hub will operate – all of these things will be developed in the next six months.
“Despite the project being in its early days, we have been delighted at the positive comments and expressions of support we have received from the Indigenous community, Mossman community, the tourism industry and government agencies,” Ms McPherson said.