Parks department says residents will keep free beach access
RAINBOW Beach residents can breathe a sigh of relief after a department official has confirmed there is no intention to review the exemption of beach access fees that residents currently enjoy between Rainbow Beach and Double Island Point.
Following Opposition claims last week that the State Government intends to remove the exemption, a Department of National Parks, Sport and Racing confirmed "there is no intention to review the current permit arrangements. "
Currently, a vehicle access permit (VAP) is required to use a motor vehicle in specified parts of the Cooloola Recreation Area, including along much of the beach.
A fee is normally payable for a VAP; however, fee exemptions can be granted to bona fide Rainbow Beach residents for VAPs for the Cooloola Recreation Area.
"The Rainbow Beach fee exemption category recognises a unique situation," the spokesman said.
"Rainbow Beach has been identified as the only location where residents can obtain a reasonable time advantage by travelling to their closest major business centre (Tewantin and Noosaville) via the beaches in the Cooloola Recreation Area, instead of by an alternative route.
"Residents of all other locations outside the Cooloola Recreation Area can access a major business centre more quickly via the normal road network rather than via the recreation area."
Residents who need to access their homes via a Recreation Area, and have no other way to reach their homes (e.g. residents of Teewah township) are eligible for a fee-exempt vehicle access permit and so do not have to pay for the permit, he said.
VAPs were introduced with the declaration of the Cooloola Recreation Area to derive fees to help manage vehicle use, and improve safety and conservation outcomes in the area.
THE nine-year dispute over beach access fees from Rainbow Beach to Double Island Point is erupting again, with Opposition claims that the State Government intends to remove the exemption currently enjoyed by Rainbow Beach residents.
The exemption, a 2014 compromise gesture by the Campbell Newman LNP government, was popular among beach residents but fell short of the total abolition sought by beach camping fishing and surf enthusiasts, especially those from the non-exempt areas of Tin Can Bay and points south and west.
This week, Opposition environment shadow minister Stephen Bennett and Gympie MP Tony Perrett warned of a rumoured change in government policy to remove the exemption and increase the permit fees.
Mr Bennett, who is also deputy chair of the parliamentary environment committee, warned that a review of the fees, including the exemption is due now and change for the worse is likely.
"We've managed to prevent the (exemption) removal and any review of prices, because we believe there is a fundamental right of access to all protected estates.
"We are after a management structure that allows access for all Queenslanders to protected estates in a sustainable way," he said.
The fees were introduced by Labor in 2010, on the recommendation of a secret 2007 advisory committee, which essentially recommended taxes, bans or restrictions on most popular uses of the beach, from driving to hang gliding.
Mr Perrett warned a year ago of a possible end to Rainbow Beach privileges, saying the parliamentary committee was reviewing the issue then.
"We just want to let the government know we haven't forgotten our commitment to residents," Mr Bennett said.
Who do you think beach fees should apply to on the Cooloola Coast?
This poll ended on 18 April 2016.
Rainbow Beach residents should be exempt
All Gympie region residents should be exempt
Beach fees should be removed entirely
Beach fees should apply to everyone
This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.