Airlie Beach-based tourism company Providence Sailing has refused to accept a major Whitsundays Tourism award.
Why you might ask?
For the love of the Great Barrier Reef that gives them their income and contributes $6.4 billion to the Australian economy yearly.
Still confused? Well it might be important here to add one tiny detail. The Whitsunday Tourism award bestowed on Providence Sailing just so happened to be sponsored by coal mining giant Adani.
The mining company currently hoping to build the controversial coalmine which may destroy the reef has sponsored an award celebrating reef tourism.
Speaking exclusively to Travel Weekly, Providence Sailing Owner and Manager Lindsay Simpson said the sponsorship was nothing more than Adani attempting to “buy a new reputation”.
“Adani breaches guidelines. In India they breached almost every guideline. With a track record like that how can we say these people actually have our interest at heart?”
“We have politics coming in to play, Adani is interested in buying a reputation,” Simpson said.
The 2017 Whitsunday Awards were held in Hamilton Island last month, and while Simpson was quick to call the tourism organisation “incredible and extremely important”, she doesn’t fail to point out the huge mistake they’d made in taking money from Adani.
“Tourism Whitsunday are an incredible organisation, but at some point that decision was made and they’ve made a very wrong call.”
“As I understand [Adani] are only a silver sponsor, but, as our spokesperson said, he went to pick up the award and just before he did, sponsors were read out to a clapping audience, when Adani was mentioned the entire room fell silent.”
“Other organisations felt cheated.”
“We were thrilled to be recognised, but in one fell swoop they made us disgraced.”
“We felt our award had been contaminated.”
For Simpson, Adani is just one of a multitude of threats the reef is facing, let alone natural disasters like the recent Cyclone Debbie as well as irreversible coral bleaching.
“We’re living on the doorstep of the worlds largest organism, we have an enormous responsibility, especially where we are in northern Queensland to have care.”
“59,000 people make livelihood out of the reef, we’re facing natural disasters and Debbie hit us hard.”
“When we add to the mix the explosive idea of Adani – with its track record – being a sponsor of an environmental award, it seems everyone has just lost the plot.”
Simpson said the move by Providence will hopefully send a message to other community groups that operators don’t have to accept awards from organisations sponsored by companies they don’t agree with.
According to Simpson, members of Tourism Whitsundays had not been consulted about Adani sponsorship, and if they had been the coal mining giant would’ve had nothing to do with the awards.
Simpson also added that had Tourism Whitsundays apologised for taking the sponsorship, Providence would’ve accepted the award, but as of yet, they have not.
“We’re just one boat, one husband and wife, we didn’t want people to feel uncomfortable by accepting the award.”
“It makes no sense and there’s really no excuse.”