A legacy of Dec 1


A legacy of Dec 1 - New museum, old reef: Boldness and vision needed for both

Sunday was unforgettable for thousands of us Western Australians. One of the biggest rallies in memory and the opening of a daring new public building. Upon reflection, the future of Ningaloo and what it must have taken to create the new maritime museum have a lot in common, quite apart from salt water and a blustery summers' day in Fremantle.

To make a statement, to be noticed, the museum needed to be bold, visionary, gutsy. And it is, inside and out, with facets that are so peculiarly Australian that some visitors will be delightfully confused. It must have been infused with a strong dose of local creativity and technical expertise from architects, planners, technicians, tourism experts and more. All grounded in strong community input and government commitment.

These same ingredients are needed at Ningaloo, with a twist. Ningaloo has always been there, the exhibits come for free. Now that the reef has been "discovered," we need to invest in making the interaction with tourists work. If we get it right, the payback will be enormous. That's a pretty good deal - one other countries would give anything for.

Since the 1980s however, there have been signs that we're dangerously close to getting things very wrong at Ningaloo. Coral Bay grew unplanned. Now $10 million from government - long overdue but welcome - will fix its boating and sewerage woes. Money can't buy back coral reefs and endangered species, though, so we should all be very grateful that the marina resort did not get built back then.

That marina proposal is a bright red light flashing on the dashboard warning us what happens when a vacuum of good planning and a lack of direction collide.

The legacy of 1 December could be to find that direction for Ningaloo. Museums provide essential perspective and help us learn from the past. Let's draw on the best strands of our history and tap into the talent we have in this state to do something really special for the future of Ningaloo. There's no time to waste.

Paul Gamblin, Save Ningaloo campaign spokesperson.


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