RYE Community Group Alliance president Mechelle Cheers is worried about the impact of tourism on the Mornington Peninsula’s animals, vegetation and people.
“This is a conversation that needs to be had – especially for the protection of the southern end of the peninsula. Please don’t misunderstand what I am saying as anti-tourism or development – it’s not.”
The fears held by Ms Cheers coincided with a news release from Flinders MP Greg Hunt welcoming a rise in the number of international visitors to the peninsula and the growth in spending by residents and visitors.
The data used by Mr Hunt shows tourists are staying longer and spending more.
The International Visitor Survey (IVS) shows more than 61,000 international visitors toured the peninsula last financial year, spending more than $1000 a person.
“This is great news for the residents and businesses on the Mornington Peninsula,” Mr Hunt said.
“Over the past three years we have seen spending from international tourists increase by 103 per cent across the peninsula.
“We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the world and it is nice to see so many people from across the globe visiting the south-east of Victoria.
“A growing tourism industry will drive our economy and create more local jobs.”
Another report mentioned by Mr Hunt’s office: the National Visitor Survey released last month, revealed that locals tipped $464 million into the peninsula’s economy during the past financial year.
But Nepean Historical Society president Joy Kitch said better planning for increasing numbers of tourists – and part-time residents – was paramount.
“Peak times [in Sorrento] are always January and February, but now it seems [bumper crowds are here] every weekend,” Ms Kitch said.
“More and more apartments are going up bringing more people and leading to the need for better traffic management.
“We are concerned about the [planned Sorrento] ferry terminal traffic being re-diverted, and residents of Coppin Grove are concerned about more and more cars using their street.
“People in cars are getting more angry because they can’t get a park, [so] we should have a good look at planning that works for everyone.”
Ms Cheers in a presentation to Mornington Peninsula Shire in July said that a “growing body of research had found that mass tourism had its downside, in particular, on local communities and the natural environment”.
“Since that meeting, there has been considerable publicity involving key tourist spots across Europe that supports what I was saying that night,” she said last week.
Ms Cheers has written to the mayor Cr Bev Colomb and CEO Carl Cowie asking if the shire has any strategies or plans to “balance the impact of the increasing volume of summer visitors”.
“By impact, I mean the increased rubbish, vandalism, graffiti, increased crime, noise, traffic, building development, loss of a peaceful amenity and destruction of flora and marine fauna habitat,” she said.
She also asked if the shire knew how much tourism cost in providing increased services.
“Has the shire conducted any of its own research on the impact of tourism? Has it looked at the body of research in this area?”
Sorrento Chamber of Commerce’s business development manager Natalie Garner said her role involved attracting tourists to the peninsula at off-peak times.
“We aim to spread the load over the year,” she said. “Our marketing is done from Easter to December.”
Ms Cheers said tourism was an all-of-peninsula issue.
“This will increase with recent planning decisions. No one is saying to stop tourism; what we are saying is, protect ratepayers and the very environment that tourists come for.”