Preserving the Great Barrier Reef paradise
IN A world of tourism that strives to be bigger, bolder and more luxurious, there is one man who stands to make a difference.
Ecological crusader, world environment champion and co-owner of Lady Elliot Island, Peter Gash. In the lead up to World Environment Day on Sunday, June 5, Peter outlines what it took to protect and preserve his tiny piece of Great Barrier Reef paradise.
- From pilot to preservationist, Peter has transformed a pile of "poo" into an eco resort that gifts guests with a love for the marine environment and a desire to protect it.
- Lady Elliot is the first island resort to ban disposable water bottles
- Solar Power stations have more than halved the reliance on diesel fuel
- Watch his story here
Since securing the lease on Lady Elliot Island and its 150-bed Eco Resort in 2005, Peter Gash has transformed this small Queensland island paradise on the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef into a shining example of innovative ecological tourism practices at its best.
It is the first island in Australia to ban the sale of plastic water bottles, it is powered by a Hybrid Solar Power Station and it has no high rise buildings. Further, under Gash's green thumb (and his green mindset), what was once an atoll mined bare for its premium guano "poo", is now a pretty coral cay well on its return to looking how it did pre-European settlement. What took nature 3500 years to build - and just years to strip bare - is taking this man thousands of native plants to regenerate.
But running a tourist operation on a daily basis, particularly one that is 80 kilometres out to sea on the edge of the outer Great Barrier Reef, is no simple feat.
"Managing a pristine island eco resort on the Great Barrier Reef presents many challenges," said Peter Gash.
"When we took over the stewardship and management of Lady Elliot Island Eco Lodge in 2005, it required 550 litres of diesel each day just to produce power.
"That was almost 200,000 litres per year - and at $1.50 per litre, it cost $300,000 per annum. The fact that the fuel was barged out from the mainland added more diesel burn and another 540 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per annum to the environment."
So in December 2008, Peter built a three-phase solar hybrid power station on the island - it's currently one of the larger privately-owned systems of its kind Australia - to battle the large energy and power demand.
Just two years after implementing the solar power system, Lady Elliot's fuel consumption more than halved - with less than 70,000 litres of diesel used and less than 195 tonnes of emissions produced per annum.
And to think, this focus all began when Peter first snorkelled off Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef. Captivated by its natural beauty, he became a licensed pilot and began flying tourists to both Lady Elliot Island and Lady Musgrave Island for more than 20 years.
But, simply sharing the intoxicating beauty of this island was not enough.
"Lady Elliot Island is special for so many reasons. It's remarkable in it's contrasts. It's a place of unique and pristine maratime environment. Yet at the same time a recovering mine site."
"I happen to believe in the following words that were penned by someone far more articulate than myself. We don't inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children," Peter said.
"To look after our environment, we must be efficient, we must be economical in all we do, we must continue to educate, particularly our young people who will take over from our stewardship."
Over time, the 'lady' arrested his heart and Peter did what any man in love would do - he made the island his own, with the help of his wife and two business partners.
In just eight short years, Peter has already taken monumental steps to reduce the island's carbon footprint and restore it back to the what nature intended it to be.
"Lady Elliot Island is the jewel in the crown of the Great Barrier Reef. It' helps us to educate people what they can do for their town, their city, their country, their home."
"I just love to see the looks of joy on our guests' faces when they experience the pristine wilderness of such a beautiful place."