Great Barrier Reef now open!

The Australian government has announced major reforms to the Whitsundays Plan of Management which will facilitate greater access for vessels over 35 metres in length.

Photography by Tourism Queensland

01 August 2017


Superyacht Australia (SA) has been working with stakeholders, industry and government for some time to have restrictions lifted to allow superyachts to visit this amazing area and enjoy the tropical islands and diverse tourist attractions of north Queensland.

According to the official announcement today from the office of The Hon Josh Frydenberg MP Minister for the Environment and Energy, 21 superyacht anchorages will be established at carefully selected locations with no corals or other sensitive habitats, providing further tourism opportunities and still protecting the area’s core values.

The changes are formalised through updates by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to the Whitsundays Plan of Management an area-specific plan that manages use in this highly visited region, in addition to the protections provided through Reef-wide zoning.

Most changes will take effect from 2 August 2017 and will be implemented in stages over the next 12 months. There are no changes to zoning in the area.

Superyacht Australia (SA) has for some time been seeking to reform the Whitsundays Plan of Management in order to facilitate greater access for vessels over 35 metres in length.


Marine Tourism is a significant part of the Australian economy and a growing contributor to Australia’s tourism offering. Superyacht Australia has been lobbying for the past nine years to allow superyachts greater than 35 metres to be able to cruise and anchor in key spots within the Great Barrier Reef (GBR).

Tourism Australia markets the GBR as Australia’s iconic tourism destination to the global market yet superyachts over 35 metres have been unable to enjoy this iconic destination forcing our own Australia superyacht owners to take their vessels to Fiji and other Pacific countries rather than spend their tourism dollars in their own backyard.

MaryAnne Edwards CEO of Superyacht Australia commented “The Turnbull government has read the Superyacht industry economic impact study and understands the value of the jobs and economic benefits of this sector to Australia, regional Australia in particular.

“This small move in regulations will have a big impact on regional economies who can now finally look to see greater utilisation of marina and refit facilities and the enormous spend with local businesses that comes with this.”

David Good, Operations Manager for Cairns Marlin Marina, welcomed the additional superyacht anchorages.

“Many superyachts over 35m have been deterred from heading South for cruising due to the restrictions on access for vessels in the Whitsundays. With superyachts limited to a maximum of 12 persons it was always very hard for visiting captains to understand the restrictions on access to one of the world’s best cruising grounds.

“21 new anchorages will really open up another cruising option and benefit the whole region by encouraging these vessels to stay longer and venture further. The maintenance and logistics these vessels require when in the area, benefit a massive number of small businesses, something that many businesses in regional Queensland will welcome.”

With Tourism identified as one of five ‘super sectors’ to drive Australia’s prosperity into the future, the ability to cruise in the GBR will not only attract more vessels to Australia but they will stay longer and Superyacht Australia is already developing the marketing collateral to make this happen.

An exciting new cruising itinerary calling in at all the major superyacht marinas from Cairns to Tasmania is currently being developed and will be promoted at the Monaco Yacht show.

Australia has some of the most spectacular cruising destinations and attractions in the world, and about 70 per cent of all international visitors report enjoying coastal experiences as part of their trip.

There is no doubt the superyacht industry provides economic benefits to the Australian economy across an array of industries, including, tourism, transport and marine maintenance. In fact, a recent study commissioned by Superyacht Australia found the industry contributed a total of $1.97 billion to gross domestic product (GDP) in the 2016 financial year.

Ms Edwards further stated, “Superyachts are built to the highest environmental standards and lead the world in all aspects of maritime best practices, pose no additional risk to the environmental, social or cultural values of the Whitsunday region.

“We believe that owners and guests of superyachts should have the same rights to access and enjoy the Whitsundays as any other visitor to the region and the changes to the plan of management will finally allow this.”

Paul Darrouzet, owner of award winning Abel Point Marina added “The increased access for superyacht anchorages in the Whitsundays is a huge boost for the local economy and the superyacht industry across Australia.

“Superyacht captains now have the flexibility to develop a comprehensive itinerary in the Whitsundays which has direct benefit to our marina business and connected local services. The new amendments are very timely for the upcoming cruising season in the Whitsundays.”

The Turnbull government has listened to Industry and Australia will reap the benefits of this decision through an increase in superyacht visitation leading to a greater need for skilled workers, increased job opportunities and opportunities for apprentices in a number of trade areas. This increased visitation also leads to more private investment in infrastructure and more jobs in the refit and repair industries.

The superyacht industry will make significant inroads into achieving the government’s 2020 strategy. Improving access for superyachts aligns with the State and Federal government tourism industry potential for increasing overnight visitor expenditure.




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