Some fear the Coles Bay and Freycinet area is not set up to handle the increasing tourism growth. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
Vivian Walker has lived in Swanwick, on Tasmania’s east coast, for four years.
- An eco retreat near Freycinet would expand from 10 to 38 villas under new owners
- Locals say sewerage infrastructure is already struggling to keep pace with demand
- There are also concerns about how the proposed expansion could impact on the environment
He works at Coles Bay on the edge of the iconic Freycinet National Park, home to picturesque Wineglass Bay and one of Tasmania’s most visited tourist destinations.
“We have over 300,000 visitors on the east coast [per year], and it’s normally in a six-to-seven-month period,” Mr Walker said.
Residents like Mr Walker say the tourist boom has come at a price.
“The infrastructure is not keeping up with the influx of people in here,” Mr Walker said.
“The amount of people going into the national park is a worry because there’s not enough parking in there.
“The sewerage system clogs up … and it’s not very nice at times.”
Revamped resort one of slate of projects in development pipeline
Mr Walker’s concerns are not unique, and the community has been uneasy at the pace of developments cropping up in and around the once-tranquil national park.
Vivian Walker says sewerage and parking problems are just two areas of concern. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
One project that has support from the local Glamorgan Spring Bay Council is the Chinese and Australian-backed Cambria Green development — a proposal for 70 villas, 240 units and a 120-room hotel built on 3,185-hectare, which also includes a golf course and a crematorium — at Dolphin Sands, next to Coles Bay.
A 200-unit retirement village called Tempus is also being proposed south of Swansea.
Now, locals fear the planned expansion of a boutique eco retreat in the area could further stretch the region’s infrastructure.
A development application lodged with the Glamorgan-Spring Bay Council shows a plan to almost quadruple the number of villas at Freycinet Resort from 10 to 38.
Freycinet Resort is bound by the Freycinet National Park, the Coles Bay Conservation Area and private land.
Freycinet Resort is located in bushland on the left of Coles Bay Road. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
Freycinet Action Network convenor Sophie Underwood said questions remained about how bushfire risk would be mitigated, the impact on the local environment and how wastewater would be managed.
Ms Underwood questioned whether the new owners would ensure locals benefited from the proposed expansion.
“I guess we haven’t seen enough detail yet, but it’ll be interesting to see whether this is a vertically integrated business — how many people will they be employing, and will they be catering to a Chinese market,” Ms Underwood said.
Freycinet Resort’s new owner is Coles Bay Holdings, and the major shareholder of that company is World Class Property No. 2.
Both businesses were registered on August 6 last year and both list Melbourne man Tom Yang as director.
Nearby Wineglass Bay is a major drawcard for international tourists. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
Repeated attempts to contact Mr Yang for comment were not successful.
In an email, a Freycinet Resort spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, the owner has advised that they would not be available for this interview, as they have never commented on any specific projects.”
On May 23, a website for Melbourne-based business World Class Group posted a news item celebrating the acquisition of Freycinet Resort.
Upgrades to a 7-11 petrol station in Victoria were listed alongside the Freycinet accommodation in the World Class Group property portfolio.
Under developments, it listed its work at accommodation sites in Victoria, including at Lorne.
The resort is bound by the Freycinet National Park, the Coles Bay Conservation Area and private land. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
‘Too much accommodation’ not a problem, council says
Glamorgan Spring Bay mayor Debbie Wisby said the Freycinet Resort proposal was not automatically permitted under the area’s planning scheme, meaning it was at the council’s discretion whether the expansion was allowed to proceed.
Speaking generally, she said there was a need for more accommodation in the Coles Bay area.
“Through summer, up in Coles Bay in particular, there is a huge demand for accommodation, so really I don’t think there’ll be a problem of having too much accommodation in Coles Bay,” Cr Wisby said.
She said a new Freycinet Master Plan released last month would help ensure infrastructure kept pace with development, and that TasWater was also conducting a wastewater feasibility study due to come out in November.
In a statement, East Coast Tourism chairwoman Alison Stubbs said the organisation “supports sustainable development that upholds the brand of the east coast from a tourism, community and landscape perspective”.
Mayor Debbie Wisby said the council had discretion as to whether to allow the expansion. (ABC News: Mitchell Woolnough)
Mr Walker said there was no denying the area was in need of more accommodation, but questioned whether action was really being taken to improve infrastructure.
“It would be a good thing in one way because of the bulging of the accommodation in the Coles Bay area in the summer period,” Mr Walker said.
“It’s just got to be looked at to make sure the infrastructure for those additions is taken into account.”
He said more tourists were coming, and “there needs to be something done about it”.
“All it is at the moment [is] talk,” he said.
Public comment is open on the Freycinet Resort proposal until next Tuesday.