Perfect storm hits our tourism jewels


ISLAND resort operators are calling for state and federal governments to underwrite the $6 billion-a-year Great Barrier Reef tourism industry against potential cyclone damage.

The operators say exorbitant insurance costs are a major challenge to redevelopment.

Some report up to 400 per cent hikes in premiums by insurance companies, while some insurers refuse to take on policyholders in cyclone-prone north Queensland.

Hamilton Island owners the Oatley family and Orpheus Island owner Chris Morris are self-insured, while costs for other resort owners hit by cyclones, such as Lizard Island, skyrocketed an extra $3 million to $16 million a year.

Lizard Island owner Delaware North's executive director Greg Magi said: "If you look at the Great Barrier Reef as a whole, the industry has had its fair share of cyclones.

"Us with Ita and Nathan, others with Yasi and Debbie.

"I would support underwriting by the state or federal government.

"Who knows if insurers will insure us in years to come?

"We need some intervention where a portion is underwritten.

"If something does not happen we will not see any future investment."

The Federal Government's Northern Horizons: Unleashing our Tourism Potential report fielded submissions about "cartel-like action" among insurance and construction companies after Cyclone Debbie struck two years ago.

"Those incumbent construction companies that are allied or tied to the hip of the insurers have fenced up properties," Hamilton Island Enterprises said in its submission.

"So the whole economy, the whole commercial model of a little island like this is completely hamstrung."

Ross Penegar, who runs Orpheus Island and has also worked on Hayman and Lizard islands, said cyclones are a part of nature.

"What we forget is the reef is 2300km long, and if we get a big weather event in one region, other island resorts often get a boost in business," he said.


Damage from Cyclone Debbie on Hamilton Island
Damage from Cyclone Debbie on Hamilton Island