Mallacoota was voted the top tourist town in Victoria out of a hundred Australia wide by an expert panel for the travel magazine Australian Traveller. The criteria was – ‘What town would you advise a tourist that was worth visiting an hour or so out of there way?’
This is not too surprising to those of us who know that we live in paradise. What perhaps was surprising, on the surface, was that the only other town in Gippsland to get into the list of a hundred was Wallhala! It is in that result where in lies the secret message from deep time.
Remember this is vote about the past. This is about people making decisions based on what Mallacoota was like the last time they were here. A Mallacoota less developed than it is now. It is salutary to note that it was the only town on the Sapphire/Wilderness Coast to get on the list at all. This is also true with The Lonely Planet guide books who sing Mallacoota’s praise and who are frankly disparaging about Lakes Entrance, and other ‘developed’ holiday destinations.
While it takes all kinds to make a tourist industry there is a definite risk that the simple-minded develop-develop-develop approach is rapidly eliminating choice from the tourism equation. This is why increasingly large numbers of discerning Australian tourists are going to New Zealand. It is instructive to note that the two most popular towns in Australia where Yamba and Esperence.
Mallacoota enjoys a huge natural advantage over many other coastal destinations with its encircling National Park, enormous lake and river system and pristine surfing and fishing beaches. Lakes Entrance started out with similar advantages and now has an environment where the lake ecology is slowly dieing from salt water incursions, riverine inflows are severely curtailed by domestic supply, irrigation and deforestation upstream in catchments and polluted by effluent and nutrients from surrounding domestic, agricultural and commercial developments. The whole ecological catastrophe is a result of ill planned and unrestrained development.
That is not to say, of course, that development is bad. We humans cannot help but impact on our environment. We don’t really belong so it is just prudent to step carefully. Especially if we want tourists to keep coming to Mallacoota and spend there money, so we and our children can live in the manner in which we have become accustomed, we must preserve the features that have made us number 1. We must provide services and facilities that mesh with the peace; beauty and natural wonder people come here to experience.
There is no doubt that Mallacoota could be developed along the lines of Lakes Entrance or Merimbulla and make quite a lot of money in the short term for people on the ground floor (us) but if we want to preserve a beautiful, safe and healthy environment for us, our children and future visitors then considered and careful development is, I believe, imperative.
We need developments that are going to enhance the quality of a stay here for the type of tourist attracted to a spot like this is and used to be. Remember that survey was about the past. Here are some examples that have occurred to me:
- Extensive bike and walking paths around the lake and elsewhere.
- A spectacular suspension footbridge across The Narrows.
- Power to weight ratio boating restrictions on the waterways.
- Incentive funding for ecotourism ventures and arts related businesses.
- Deployment of more fishing pontoons around the lake system in suitable spots with a regular water taxi servicing them.
- Incentive funding for I.T. related business and other operations with a small ecological footprint.
We Mallacootians always knew we were number one and now we have a survey that agrees with us. So let’s be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water if we want to stay there.