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Cr. Ann Bunnell Deputy Mayor - Townsville City Council (paper by Ann Bunnell & Greg Bruce) PowerPoint Presentation
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National Ecotourism Australia Conference – Hobart, Tasmania 1 December 2005. Townsville: Fostering Partnerships and Opportunities in Ecotourism. Cr. Ann Bunnell Deputy Mayor - Townsville City Council (paper by Ann Bunnell & Greg Bruce). Welcome to Townsville.

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National Ecotourism Australia Conference – Hobart, Tasmania

1 December 2005

Townsville: Fostering Partnershipsand Opportunities in Ecotourism

Cr. Ann Bunnell

Deputy Mayor - Townsville City Council

(paper by Ann Bunnell & Greg Bruce)


Welcome to Townsville

  • Townsville is Queensland’s largest regional City, and together with the neighbouring City of Thuringowa is home to over 158,500 people and covering a combined area of c. 4000 km2 (TCC – 1800 km2).

A Distinctive Queensland Experience

  • Townsville is where the Tropical Savannas meet the coast and is the southern gateway to the Wet Tropics and at the City’s Strand foreshore abuts the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.

Our area has coastal mountains, wetlands and a diverse marine environment consisting of fringing coral reefs, mangroves, seagrass gardens, and islands.

  • To this extent we offer our own distinctive experience along the Coast of Queensland and even in Australia.

Monsoonal-influenced tropical savannas and wetlands at Mt Stuart and the Townsville Town Common Conservation Park

  • World Heritage Wet Tropics Rainforests from Mt Elliot to Paluma
  • Extensive areas of RAMSAR listed wetlands at Bowling Green Bay National Park (57,900 ha) & Cromarty
  • World Heritage marine and coastal environments of the Great Barrier Reef lagoon from the seagrass beds, mangroves and estuaries of our intertidal wetlands to our fringing coral reefs of Magnetic Island and Cleveland Bay

Townsville’s Vision for Ecotourism

  • Taken from the Ecotourism Australia definition:

"Ecotourism is ecologically sustainable tourism with a primary focus on experiencing natural areas that fosters environmental and cultural understanding, appreciation and conservation".

  • We have developed our own Townsville Ecotourism Vision Statement:

“To ensure an ecologically sustainable and economically viable ecotourism industry in the Townsville region. Where the rich natural diversity, cultural heritage, and unique lifestyle are so valued by the entire community, that they are proactive in its management and conservation for future generations. Ecotourism represents the pre-eminent form of tourism in the region and engage, educates and delights our visitors”.


Townsville undertaken to promote ecotourism in our region, commencing with the development of a community-based “Townsville Ecotourism Strategy” - progressively implemented.

  • Included developing and promoting opportunities for business and fostering cooperation across the North Queensland region in collaboration with Townsville Enterprise (TEL) and others
  • Included the notion of the “Townsville Experience” with our own distinctive culture, people (Aboriginal & Settlement), history, and not least environment.
  • The redeveloped Strand Foreshore has become in many ways an icon to this particular aspect of promoting the “Townsville Experience” and features not only great facilities and friendly people but environmental art, interpretation, protection of natural environments (turtles & dugong) and scenic views to the World Heritage “waters” of Cleveland Bay and Magnetic Island.

The Townsville Ecotourism Strategy builds on the recommended roles of local government in facilitating Ecotourism opportunities as specified in the Queensland Ecotourism Plan and provides a response relevant for the Townsville municipality and community.

  • The Strategy was developed from two community consultation sessions held in 1998 (Townsville Ecotourism Workshops) representing a broad cross section of the community, including academics, researchers, ecotourism operators, local government, Tourism Queensland and Townsville Enterprise Ltd.

Townsville’s Ecotourism Strategy - implementation

  • This strategy has included development of the Council’s innovative and dynamic web-based

Townsville Regional Natural Assets Database and

State of Environment Report 2003


Other Significant Outcomes arising from Strategy

  • Working regionally with stakeholders and community to develop partnerships, business opportunities, networks and visions for the future of ecotourism in Townsville & region
  • Implementing interpretative eco-landscapes on the ground and across the city (Nelly Bay Habitat; Strand & wind turbine; Mt Stuart; Rowes Bay)
  • Upgrades of facilities and walking tracks both locally & regionally
  • Emergence of eco-catchment tours for promoting environmental awareness, ownership and integration
  • Increase in number of local & regional nature-based or ecotour operators from 1-2 to 9
  • In addition Townsville Enterprise has taken up the ambit and is facilitating additional regional ecotourism initiatives such as the Regional Bird Watching Cluster and Discovering Tropical Queensland Loop project.
  • (TCC and other regional Councils are contributing financially to this project)

Emerging from the progression of the Ecotourism Strategy are three themes that help to encapsulate this rationale:

    • Ecotourism – Economy, Environment and Future
    • Environmental Education and Experience, and
    • Regional and Local Partnerships and Opportunities

Ecotourism – Economy, Environment and Future

  • Townsville City Council has been for a long time committed to providing recreational opportunities for our citizens and visitors, which is seen as vital to maintaining a prosperous, vibrant, tropical city and region where people enjoy living, working and visiting.
  • Ecotourism is seen as making an important contribution to both the local and regional economy, by meeting the growing expectations of tourists for quality experiences which include the natural environment and information.
  • The 4th National Conference on Tourism Futures (2005) clearly states in its Conference Communiqué that Ecotourism was considered the top opportunity for growth.
  • This perception aligns well both with the competitive advantages identified in the communiqué – including pristine beauty, unique experience, culture & friendly people, and the same assets and advantages seen in our local area.
  • In 2003 International “ecotourists” were recorded as being almost double the number of non-ecotourists, and stayed twice as long and subsequently spending much more per trip

Environmental Education and Experience

  • Locally ecotours environmental and eco-attractions such as Reef HQ and Billabong Sanctuary, along with provision of eco-learning landscapes are see as key aspects of ensuring our region and city are seen as sustainable and attractive place to visit and stay.
  • They are seen as important opportunities to educate locals and visitors about our environment, and assist our own community to find our own ‘sense of place’.
  • They also provide opportunities for people to become involved as volunteers or start their own business providing ecotours/attractions.
  • “A shift is happening in the way we engage with our communities, people want to find a ‘meaning of place’ and tourism has an important role and opportunity for community capacity building”.

(2005 Tourism Futures Conference – Gold Coast)


Regional and Local Partnerships and Opportunities

  • Townsville has a strong commitment to the development of a vibrant ecotourism industry as demonstrated by Council’s ongoing support to creating networks, fostering partnerships working closely with eco-tour operators, local business, Townsville Enterprise and neighbouring Local Governments.
  • Council participates fully in the TEL Ecotourism Sub-Committee (Tourism Advisory Committee)
  • Eco-tours across the region establishing and promoting ecotourism including interpretative signage, attractions, and tours.
  • Arguably these ecotours have played a key part in breaking down some of the barriers which historically existed between our various communities. Thus enabling participants (including volunteers, Councillors, and Local Government staff) to see that we are essentially all part of one integrated region.
  • There are now many integrated and collaborative nature-based tourism projects under way across the region, which demonstrate the effect of this.

Townsville Ecotourism Networks

- fostering regional cooperation and partnerships

  • TCC has provided a senior officer as Chair of Ecotourism Sub-Committee Townsville Enterprise Ltd. for three years
  • With key objective to foster and develop regional partnerships in order that the region works together and obtains resources and support appropriate to needs.
  • Key projects and outcomes include:
    • Ecotours to various Local Government areas promoting initiatives, integration, awareness and partnership (Townsville, Burdekin, Magnetic Island, Hinchinbrook, & Thuringowa);
    • Networking and sharing information on local eco-tourism initiatives such as attractions (e.g. walking tracks) and interpretative facilities;
    • Mapping of ecotourism attractions and potential sites and maps; and
    • Producing web pages of ecotourism by each Local Government across the region and uploading on TEL web site.

Future initiatives include exploring Green Globe certification, encouraging Ecotourism Accreditation and becoming a network cluster of the emerging Centre of Excellence in Tropical Design (Sustainability & Innovation).

  • In addition the principles and objectives for promoting ecotourism in Townsville and region tie in with the development of Townsville’s own Healthy Cities Plan and Sustainable Townsville Program (& Reef Guardians Councils).
  • The Healthy City Plan includes facilitating social capacity building, and integrating health, welfare, environment/tourism, and culture as a way of reinforcing the idea of linking and integrating community, business, prosperity and environment (sustainability).
  • The Sustainable Townsville Program consists of all sustainability programs and initiatives (environmental, economic and including Ecotourism Strategy) which compliments the objectives of the Healthy City Plan.


Environmental Protection, Facilities and Interpretive Learnscapes

  • Castle Hill - Castle Hill is now a reserve managed for environmental protection and has been subject of intensive walking track upgrades and development of scenic viewing platforms
  • Town Common –The setting aside of a significant portion of the city developable area in the Town Common for nature conservation has ultimately left a legacy of tropical savanna covered hills and peaks, lowland woodlands, estuarine habitats and freshwater-marine wetlands.

Environmental Protection, Facilities and Interpretive Learnscapes

  • Magnetic Island – Situated within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, “Maggie” has an extensive and well used natural and protected walking tracks system complimented by:
    • Nelly Bay Habitat Interpretive Centre – an award-winning facility used extensively by local tour guides and has proved an invaluable resource.
    • Landscape Ecology, Flora & Fauna, and Heritage signage & interpretive stations across the island – giving a “sense of place”
  • Other examples of Council providing interpretative signage, walking track, and viewing platform experiences for visitors include Mt Stuart lookout and along the Ross River Parkway
  • The Strand itself is featured with environmental interpretation mainly as artworks and includes featuring past and present habitats of the area
  • Further Coastal Learnscapes are planned for neighbouring Rowes Bay, promoting marine habitats of mudflats and sponge gardens with their strange and colourful creatures. This is another example of a joint project with TCC working with researchers at James Cook University, local business, and community.

Townsville Ecotourism Operators and Opportunities

  • Townsville historically has a growing number of eco-tour operators, some with National Ecotourism Accreditation, others working towards it, or still providing excellent interpretive and interactive ecotourism experiences
  • Billabong Sanctuary Billabong Sanctuary was the first attraction and is highly successful wildlife park with excellent interpretative facilities and educational staff
  • Reef HQeducation & interpretative centre-aquarium for Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area
  • Magnetic Island Sea Kayaks hold the highest level of Eco-Tourism Accreditation. As winners of 12 local and state tourism awards, they have developed and excelled at bringing a unique and eco friendly experience to Magnetic Island visitors
  • Magnetic Island Reef Eco Tours are operated by local marine biologist Dr Andy Lewis and take in the under-water world of Magnetic Island’s off-shore reefs

Conservation Volunteers Australia Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) is a national, not-for-profit community-based organisation. CVA operates volunteer and Ecotour experiences in Australia and overseas through conservation initiatives and projects.

  • Townsville Tropical Tours, Ironbark Tours, NQ River & Roads, Pop Sullivan Cruisers offer Ecotour experiences exploring aspects of the region that make it unique and introducing visitors to parts of our city and surrounds that even residents may never have known existed
  • Townsville City Council (EMS) Eco-Catchment Tours provide local eco-catchment tours to international and national visitors, locals and students (2000 students in 2004) and forms another emerging component of the “Townsville Experience”


Townsville boasts some great ecotourism environments and has responded by developing an integrated suite of educational information and facilities including great on-line ecological information.

Like all communities with exceptional and distinctive environmental character our community places great importance on the conservation of it.

With two of the world’s great environmental icons on our doorstep and backyard (Wet Tropics and Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Areas) – we have an important responsibility to showcase them and

Provide opportunities for tourism business which melds with our own areas aspirations for a Sustainable Townsville and Health City.

Townsville’s own distinct environments melding tropical wetlands, savannas, rainforests and marine environments offer an important vision for integrating community with a sustainable future.

Council has sought to do this through partnerships and fostering regional cooperation.




Elizabeth Booth (EMS) – for preparation PPT slides & photos

Photographs: TCC, Dr A.Lewis, GBRMPA, D.Silke, Townsville Tropical Tours, Billabong Sanctuary, and MI Sea Kayaks,

Presentation and Paper will be available on web site: