Tourism leader responds to pitch to get tourists here longer
A YEAR after being named the first Whale Heritage Site in the world, Hervey Bay state candidates have pitched how they plan on capitalising on the title.
In a debate on Tuesday, candidates vying for the seat of Hervey Bay were asked what was the number one piece of infrastructure that Hervey Bay needed right now.
LNP candidate Steve Coleman and independent Stuart Taylor both spoke on their desire for a whale watching interpretative centre.
Mr Coleman said he had gone as far speaking with councillors about the possibility of using a pre-existing building like the old Sporties Club in Urangan to house such a centre.
"We have to use what we have already before we start to dig more holes," he said.
"I would like to see what we got and use what we got as a first measure."
He said it was going to be difficult to get projects approved in the first budget so he had already started negotiations with his party to include the centre.
Mr Taylor said aside from serious road upgrades, the whale centre was high on his list of priorities.
"When you are talking about the whale watch interpretative centre that is a vital piece of infrastructure that will lift our position as the whale watching capital of the world," he said.
Mr Taylor stressed the importance of the centre for tourism.
"There needs to be wet weather activities to get them to the third day to keep them in region for longer," he said.
Fraser Coast Tourism and Events general manager Martin Simons said the centre would help make the whales a year-round attraction.
"It gives it a year-round perspective, the whale season is between July and October, but to have an interpretative centre if you come up at another time you can learn about the region and how important it is to humpbacks and their regeneration," he said.
He also said it would be great for those who were not keen on being out on the water.
"Not everyone particularly some aged people may not be that keen to get on boats," he said.
"It would reinforce the fact we are one of the best whale-watching centres in the world.
"We are the first location in the world to be declared a whale heritage site so I think it would really double down on our credentials of being one of the best on the east coast for humpback whale watching."
Hervey Bay Chamber of Commerce president Sandra Holebrook said that the centre would be a great win for the business community, but felt the best location for it was in the marina.
"The more the nights you can get for whatever reason, that is a plus for the economy there is no other two ways about it," she said.
"To me it makes sense it is on the marina right where the whale boats leave. I just go 'why would you not expand that terminal to connect it to the whale watching boats'?"
"Yes if you put it in the Sporties Club it is there but it is a little bit away from were the action is."
The Urangan Boat Harbour was also Mr Simons' preferred location, but said he understood the challenges involved with that.
"I think the boat harbour would be prime position, but it all depends on financing but that way it is purpose built," he said.
"Maybe if you use an existing building you can put more money into the centre, but the ideal is at the harbour where people congregate and they are joining the whale boats.
"It is not a simple place to build because land availability will be a question," he said.