With tourists returning to Port Stephens’ coastal suburbs over the long-weekend local businesses have begun to open up their doors to help lift the local economy out of hibernation.
The Tomaree Peninsula in particular has a high visitor population come holiday time and this year was no exception with the Port Stephens Tourism Centre reporting a return to pre-COVID 19 occupancy numbers with accommodation completely booked out.
While the economic boost from tourism is essential for the region there are still many localised concerns about the impacts the increased visitation has on the natural environment.
A large drawcard for the region is its environmental assets like the clear sandy beaches and coastal outlooks around the harbour.
Unfortunately many residents report that these spots become increasingly polluted and trampled when holidays roll around.
Jess Doering, a local environmentally conscious surfer and mother said that while the benefits of tourism brings dollars to Port Stephens it also has adverse effects on the natural surroundings that need more Council attention.
“The council needs to shift its focus towards eco-friendly tourism that encourages healthy participation and conservation of this beautiful landscape,” said Mrs Doering.
“For example, a focus on low-impact pursuits like mountain biking, hiking, kayaking, and surfing.
“This same model has been successfully implemented in such regions as the northern rivers, NSW and Derby in Tasmania that has recently become a mountain biking mecca.”
Now after witnessing cleaner beaches and headlands during the lockdown residents are mirroring Mrs Doering’s views across community social media pages.
There’s calls to maintain sustainable neighbourhood hubs focused on preservation through initiatives like the recent Anna Bay 7-Day Makeover.
“Whilst isolation rules were in place the town had much more of a community feel than I’ve ever experienced, unfortunately over the long-weekend that has well and truly disappeared,” said Mrs Doering.
“It’s (Port Stephens) an absolutely beautiful place to live, however it becomes exhausting when those who visit don’t show the environment the same respect as the community who support and preserve it.”
In an online statement Port Stephens Council said that “increased waste management services and public health and safety measures are being actioned as COVID restrictions ease and visitors return.”
New signage will also inform and guide tourists at high traffic areas with localised events and community initiatives restarting when permissible.
By Mitch LEES