Lady Elliot Island is a Commonwealth Island located in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, managed jointly by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service (QPWS) under a collaborative lease arrangement with a sole tourism operator – Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort.
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort’s lease and associated Marine Parks permit allows for the operation of a low-key resort, which can accommodate a maximum of 150 overnight guests and 100 day guests. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) leases a small section of the island for the operation of the lightstation.
Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort is a family run and operated eco-tourism business. Peter Gash, family and several silent partners have held the lease to operate the resort since 2005. Prior to this time, Peter and family provided the air charter services to the previous Island leaseholder since 1995. Peter and family are also the sole owners/operators of sister charter flight company Seair Pacific.
Since 2005, enormous strides have been made to introduce sustainable initiatives to convert the resort to renewable energy with the goal to be 100% renewable by 2020. Lady Elliot Island Management are constantly reviewing and improving quality standards of the resort operation and implementing eco initiatives to make the island a role model in best environmental practice. The Resort has been recognised as one of the leading ecologically sustainable tourism operators on the Great Barrier Reef, providing guests with an opportunity to experience and learn about the Island’s unique ecosystem with minimal impact.
Peter sees himself, family and partners as stewards, caring for this beautiful location while at the same time empowering people to fall in love with and protect its natural beauty. His future vision for Lady Elliot Island is to showcase this magnificent jewel of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and to keep its access and visitation costs at a level that all Australians can afford to visit and experience its wondrous natural beauty. The Lady Elliot Island and Seair team work hard at providing education, particularly encouraging school and university groups to visit and learn about the reef, its diversity, marine life and importantly to educate their guests about climate change issues.
In recognition of Peter’s 30 plus years in Queensland’s dynamic tourism industry and in particular his passion, dedication and leadership in sustainable ecotourism, Peter was awarded the Marie Watson-Blake award for ‘Outstanding Contribution by an Individual’ at the 30th annual QLD Tourism awards in November 2014. Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort was also awarded the Steve Irwin Award for Ecotourism.
In 1969, a keen aviator, Mr Don Adams (who later went on to found Seabird Aviation) built an airstrip and accommodation on the island, and was granted a tourist recreation lease by the Australian Government. In 1977, Don Adams sold the lease to Barrier Reef Airways. In 1984, the Australian Government called for tenders to construct a low-key resort on that island.
The first owner of the resort lease was John and Judy French, with the resort opening in 1985. In 1992, the resort lease changed hands and was sold to Bevan Whittaker. Guided activities on the island include reef walking, glass bottom boat/guided snorkel tours, island history tours, bird watching tours and turtle treks in season. Peter began working closely with Bevan during this time, they work successfully together for the next 10 years promoting the special attractions of Lady Elliot Island.
When the lease was again coming up for renewal in 2005, Peter and his partners submitted a tender and became the successful leaseholder.