By the decision of the Mayor of the City of Novalja on October 21 this year, the public was opened to the public for a period of 30 days on the Proposal of the Urban Development Plan for the Zrće tourist zone.
Extremely important document on which the future of Zrće depends, including Novalja as a tourist destination. Also, this document will finally bring order and stabilize the situation on Zrće, and thus create the preconditions for sustainable growth, both Zrće itself and Novalja.
Both the GUP and the UPU are key tools that cities and destinations have in their hands, and which clearly define the future planning, strategic and sustainable vision of city development.
Here I can freely refer to the fact that tourism is not developed by the Ministry of Tourism and Sports and the CNTB, although they play an important role and set certain frameworks, but the development of tourism is mostly dealt with by the destination itself.
Due to epidemiological measures, the public exposure of the UPU of Zrće beach was limited to a small number of people, and for that reason the exposure was broadcast live via the YouTube channel TV Novalja, which is available both on digital channels and on the city of Novalja.
After reviewing the public presentation several times (which was the motive for writing the article), I could not convey information about it without looking at the broader context and history of Zrće and try to convey the whole story objectively. This is how this article was created, and after the announcement of the mayor of Novalja, Ante Dabe, as a review of the public presentation, I decided to contact the mayor for a statement.
But before we look at the UPU, we have to look at the whole story around Zrće. The story around Zrće is complex and has a long history, but the most important thing is a positive story.
Zrće is a world story, and festivals in clubs on Zrće have brought the world's most famous DJs and musicians. And to Croatia, the island of Pag, ie to Zrće. This is a huge global promotion, not only of Zrće and Novalja, but also of the whole of Croatia. Let's be honest and ask ourselves who would have ever heard of the island of Pag and the town of Novalja on the European market without Zrće. Zrce is a great generator of tourist and economic development of the city of Novalja. Yes, it was before Zrće tourism, and it would be without Zrće, but it is quite clear that Zrće enabled a totally different tourist story, accelerated development and a new perspective.
Of course, as in everything, everything has its advantages and disadvantages, including festival tourism, but precisely because of that, we must deal with tourism, strategically and sustainably, and not let it happen to us.
As we can see in Croatia, we are paying big bills today due to spontaneous developments. It is much more expensive and harder to correct some crooked drines, and some threads we can correct more because we have destroyed space as our most valuable resource. Thus, Novalja has had, and still has, the challenge of how to regulate the negative effects of festival tourism, which is primarily intended for young people, such as drunkenness in the city center, public order violations, excessive noise, destruction of public property and all other negative aspects that come naturally. with that kind of tourism. The question is how to regulate them and put them in one sustainable framework, to be a win-win for everyone. Possible? Absolutely, but strategic and sustainable development is the solution.
Of course, it is much harder to correct mistakes or bad habits than when we set them clearly at the beginning, but it is certainly possible. A challenge in which, as in everything, we have to approach from several sides, and it takes time and continuous work and communication.
On the one hand, Zrće's biggest problem was the rapid growth in popularity and size of success, which was not strategic. So many problems arose quickly because the destination was not ready for the same. From the infrastructure, the behavior of young people in the center of Novalja, noise and riots, the dissatisfaction of the local population to the issue of perception of the tourist product.
Also, for this reason, it quickly became clear that the big problem was that in the beginning the "rules of the game" were not clearly set, and the very concept of development of both the beaches of Zrće, and Novalja as a destination. Zrće has caused big rifts in Novalja over the years, on the one hand it has brought huge popularity, and thus much higher income to the local population, and thus a much higher budget to the city, while on the other hand great dissatisfaction with the behavior of young tourists in Novalja. It is nothing that has not happened to many destinations that have suddenly achieved success and suddenly began to attract large numbers of tourists.
Regardless of the fact that negative media images have been sent from Zrće for years, Zrće is still a positive story. A story that brought world fame to Novalja, but there was a moment of shooting and a questionable future, precisely because there was no order, no clear vision of development and I am quite sure that soon the whole story around Zrće would collapse. The situation was simply not sustainable.
It must be clear to all partners on Zrće beach, as well as to the town of Novalja and the local population, that only with synergy and a strategic approach can they make the situation long-term profitable for all. Just as Dubrovnik embarked on a new sustainable development strategy, so must Novalja and Zrće, because otherwise the whole house of cards would collapse. And that is not in anyone's interest.
And the first step towards that is certainly the adoption of the Urban Development Plan for Zrće beach and a new vision of the development of tourism in Novalja.
But let's go back to Zrće beach and the concession for maritime property, around which conflicts between several parties have been going on for a long time. According to the valid Law on Maritime Property, beaches are given to the management of counties, and so the counties announce a tender for concessions on maritime assets.
Although the general consensus of the profession, business people and local self-government is that the existing Law on Maritime Property must be changed, because the management of maritime property should be left to local self-government and not to counties, which is currently the case. But that is another debate.
Thus, according to the Decision of the expert commission for concessions on maritime domain, which was confirmed by the Lika-Senj County Assembly in 2017, Lika-Sinj County awarded the concession over Zrće beach to the Cocomo consortium for 20 years. By the way, this is a consortium of six companies. The bidder is the company Cocomo doo owned by a caterer from Novalja, and the company Telur, catering trade Arkada, Vodeni sport Fero-Term, Kamgrad and Klemm Sigurnost.
Also, we must mention that in addition to the city of Novalja (which represents the public interest of the local population as well as the vision of the city development), the concessionaire of the beach Zrce (consortium Cocomo) we have a consortium of owners of existing clubs in Zrce. So, we can say that these are three sides, each of which has its own interest. Business entities (concessionaires) of course have a business interest to make financial income, which is absolutely legitimate or disputable (this is the meaning of entrepreneurship, to make money), while the city of Novalja has an interest in Zrce to develop well in the context of a tourist destination. interest that the beach as a maritime good remains a beach open to all.
But in this story, the name of the consortium doesn’t matter. The main problem arose because Lika-Senj County initiated a tender for the granting of a concession, without the UPU or the Urban Development Plan for Zrće beach being defined on the same beach. The city administration of Novalja appealed the decision to launch a tender for the concession and stated arguments that the County in the tender proposals prejudged the purpose and other conditions of spatial planning for the area, although UPU Zrće has yet to be adopted.
As we know, the urban plan clearly defines the arrangement and facilities on the beach. Therefore, a logical question arises: Why did they go into granting a concession for Zrće beach, without an urban plan being defined on it? And how any bidder, including the current concessionaire, could have planned anything in the long run, and these are large investments as well as obligations under the Concession Agreement (HRK 65,5 million - fixed and variable part), if he does not know how to proceed UPU be defined beach? A parameter that defines everything. Also, why did the whole process start, if the city of Novalja was against it, precisely because of the fact that the UPU has not yet been defined, the drafting of which was in progress based on the decision from July 2016?
These are key questions, which were not answered at the beginning of the story and which led to a conflict between the three parties, or mostly the concessionaire of the beach and the town of Novalja. Administrative and court disputes have been initiated, communication through lawyers, and as can be seen in the public presentation, there is unfortunately no talk of cooperation, synergy and compromise, although the City in agreement with the concessionaires in October 2017 withdrew the lawsuit and concluded an agreement with the concessionaires. . As always, tango requires two, and in this case three sides.
As already mentioned, in 2016, the City of Novalja started drafting the UPU, which, due to the legal procedure and previous harmonization of the Spatial Plan of the City, has only now come to light and is presented through a public presentation (video above)
During the heated debate, it is clear that there is a lack of constructive dialogue, and that all three sides must find a compromise, all with the aim of making the whole story around Zrće sustainable, which must be imperative. What is clearly emphasized by the city, both through UPU and through public exposure, is the interest of the city that the beach remains a beach, and that during the day it has a primary bathing function, without any fixed or prefabricated buildings, and to ensure the economic activity of the concessionaire construction area on the edge of the beach in the area of approx. 5500 m2 with the possibility of building 2700 m2 of gross floor area of solid business buildings.
Ante Dabo, Mayor of Novalja: We want Zrće beach to be exclusively in the function of a swimming pool, and not any club facilities
This is a very important and strategic document that will clearly define what Zrce beach will look like in the future, and most importantly, it is the first step towards the sustainable development of the whole story around Zrce, he points out. Ante Dabo Mayor of Novalja and adds that he has been negotiating with all actors on Zrće beach (beach clubs and concessionaires) for a couple of years now, hoping to find the best solution for everyone through compromise.
"The concept is such that with this very important point that significantly affects tourism and the tourist economy of the city of Novalja, we must clearly make the authority what is the beach and what is the content on the beach. We tried to meet all economic requirements, but the most important thing is our concept is to completely clean the beach from all facilities, simple and mobile buildings, and that the beach is exclusively in the function of the beach, and not any club facilities”Says Dabo and adds that after almost three years of talks, negotiations, changes to the spatial plan of the City and search for an acceptable solution that can satisfy the public interest of the City, and then reconcile the interests of clubs and concessionaires, he unfortunately states that they failed to find common ground with beach concessionaires. around the key provisions of the plan.
"Above the promenade on the edge of the beach, we have planned a part of the construction zone, where solid facilities, facilities, and even a club can be developed as a solid facility. The concessionaires of the beach cannot accept that. We mostly think that an injustice was done to the city of Novalja, when in 2016 a decision was made to go into the development and implementation of the UPU, and Lika-Senj County in 2017 conducted the concession process while the development of the UPU was in progress. Concessionaires who have received a Concession Agreement, have their own concept, which is based mainly on simple buildings, and which is in conflict with the current proposal of the UPU and the future tourism development of Novalja and ZrćeSays Dabo.
Public presentation on the proposal of the UPU of the beach Zrće on YouTube channel in three parts, while reading the entire UPU documentation in the attachment.
What is clear from the public debate is the position of the City that they want to preserve the beach, calm the situation during the day on Zrće and connect it with the new tourist development and products of Novalja.
"Unfortunately, the concept of the concessionaire revolves around the offer, based on fast food, simple prefabricated buildings and various facilities on the beach. We do not want to allow that. The beach must remain a beach. All clubs that are above the maritime domain were legalized back in 2011 and they did nothing outside the dimensions that are legal and which is according to the Law. On the other hand, beach concessionaires believe that the beach is entirely their property, that they can do whatever they like or whatever is most profitable for them. We believe that this is a big problem, which is directly at odds with the current proposal of the UPU. Ultimately, it is about capital that in this case conflicts with the public interest and the interest of the destination in contact strategic destination management and what we as a city want from Zrce . At the public presentation, I announced another important document that we will present at the City Council by the end of this year, and that is the General Act which will define the beach order in the Zrće zone. All with the aim of defining the provisions and framework in the public part of the zone even more precisely when it comes to noise and programDabo pointed out.
Finally, we are talking about such an important strategic and sustainable development as well as a clear vision of tourism, all with the aim of making the whole story around Zrće sustainable and, above all, financially sustainable for all. If such a framework had been set up at the beginning or at least much earlier, it is certain that Zrće and thus Novalja would look much different today.
It is quite certain that both can and must be together. Rather, it is an imperative and a question of the future development of the destination. Of course, it is in the interest of every entrepreneur to make as much profit as possible, which is absolutely legitimate and not disputable, but as it is a public good, other criteria than profit must be met, and the story must be sustainable for all parties, and most of all for the destination.
When asked what is the concept of the town of Novalja around Zrće, Dabo points out that they want to calm Zrće during the day. “We want daily parties with loud music not to take place on Zrće, and those who make that beach completely different during the day should be something it should be. One is the nightlife and the other is the functioning of the beach during the day. We want young tourists to relax during the day, to get to know our destination, gastronomy, to make the beach accessible to everyone in a swimming atmosphere, and not to have a 24-hour party non-stop. Also, we want party boats to be renamed excursion boats, to present to these young people a concept of getting to know the island, gastronomy, to have a quality offer and information that the island offers. Unfortunately, often in research, except for Pag cheese, young tourists are not generally familiar with our gastronomic offer. By calming down Zrće, we want to enable the content for young people to be satisfied, so that everyone can enjoy the tourist offer, and during the day the whole destination and the city calms down during the day and there is no party that lasts night and day. We want to reconcile the quality of content as well as the interest of capital and the interest of the destination through sustainable and quality development. ” Dabo points out and emphasizes that the UPU should have been passed first, and only then work on the tender for the concessionaire of the maritime domain, ie Zrće beach.
Which is quite logical, as I mentioned above. When the rules and vision of development are clearly set, then investors come who, within the given framework, agree on their development concept and business model.
"Zrća beach was one of the most beautiful natural beaches on the Adriatic. We want the beach to be clean of all amenities. On the beach Zrce, no facilities will be allowed, neither simple nor solid buildings. We want to preserve the beach, which is clearly defined in the UPU proposal. According to the current UPU plan, which refers to the area above the beach, according to any analysis, there is enough space for everyone to earn very well. We have 5.500 square meters of construction area above the beach, so there is certainly room to satisfy the interest of capital and economic ambitions of the concessionaire. But the beach itself must remain public and clean - we want to preserve the beach for future generations and that is our only goal. " adds Dabo and concludes that the UPU proposal protects the beach from the uncontrolled construction of ancillary facilities and facilities and enables a long-term sustainable concept for the development of the Zrće tourist zone.
Destination is a much broader term than Zrce itself, no matter how significant Zrce is.
In conclusion, it is quite clear that everyone is interested in sustainable, planned and quality development and that Zrće continues to develop. But to know in which direction. By adopting the UPU, it will take exactly this step, put Zrće in a sustainable framework with clear rules and harmonized with the new development of tourist products aimed at active vacation and gastronomy. Two things that are absolutely compatible, in fact, that is the only real direction of destination development.
Finally, the most important thing in the whole story is the local population. In the public debate on several occasions, the representative of the citizens emphasized in his appeal: Save the beach and in the interest of everyone - make an agreement.
A clear message for the end for all. Like the Pag bridge, the bridge that connects.
This should be the main interest, because in the second case what is the meaning of development, if the same is not in line with the expectations of the local community. This proposal aims to preserve Zrće beach as much as possible, protect the interests of the community and thus lay the foundations for Zrće and thus Novalja as a complete tourist destination to be sustainable in every way.
Also, we must not forget that if we lose the most valuable resource - and that is space as the most valuable resource, there is no going back. The purpose of tourism is not to be an end in itself, but primarily to raise the quality of life of the local community.
The adoption of the UPU is a question of the future and vision of the development of Novalja. A key document that is the first precondition for a brighter and sustainable future of Novalja as a tourist destination.
Cover photo: FB TZ Novalja / Illustration: HrTurizam