Something To Think About


Thursday, March 06, 2007
By Associated Press

TOWNSVILLE, Australia — Environmentalists said Wednesday they are fighting plans to build a huge pontoon featuring water slides, an underwater cafe, and a wedding chapel on Australia's World Heritage–listed Great Barrier Reef. The proposed 3,900-square-meter (41,979.6-square-feet) EcoReef Center, which is yet to win government approval, would also include luxury accommodation, a health spa, and a gallery of Aboriginal art. "It sets a really bad precedent and opens the door up for really tacky theme park ventures to settle on one of the most significant reefs on the planet," said John Rainbird, a spokesman for the Cairns and Far North Environment Center. Protesters have started a fund to cover costs of a possible legal battle to fight the development. Sunlover Cruise, the company planning the EcoReef Center, said the pontoon, to be built about 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of tourist city of Cairns, in northeastern Australia, would have no discernible impact on the area's ecology. The center would look like an island, be a maximum of 15 meters (50 feet) high, and blend in with the surrounding scenery, the company said. Managing Director Terry Russell said Sunlover had been taking tourists to the reef for more than a decade and needed to start planning for the future. "It's the same management area we've looked after for 12 years, and we want to put something in to accommodate people by giving them more time and more space," he said. The EcoReef Center would include a research laboratory and facilities to teach people about the reef, Russell said. But Rainbird said the structure would cast a huge shadow over the sea floor, depriving many sea creatures of sunlight and generate lots of sewage. Thousands of tourists visit the Great Barrier Reef, the world's largest chain of coral reefs, each year. Most take day trips by boat to get to the reefs. The plan must win approval from the Great Barrier Reef Marine Authority, a government-funded agency that looks after the reef. The authority said it has asked Sunlover to provide more details of the proposal.
Source: Associated Press