Calmer seas ahead with $2.5m
DESPERATE to keep up with the demands of the tourism industry, the Whitsunday Maritime Training Centre has been promised $2.5 million by the Liberal National Party if it is elected in the federal election.
Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen met with representatives from the centre on Tuesday at their current Whitsunday Sailing Club location to make his pledge.
Whitsunday Sailing Club president Leo Rodriguez said securing the funding was vital in helping the centre to build new facilities to meet current training demands for mariners.
"We are basically maxed out as far as training goes so for us to cement our future, the only way we can evolve is to move on to new premises,” he said.
"The way forward for us is to build the new centre we've had on the drawing board for quite a long time now, so we can offer the classrooms and new facilities to keep up with needs of students and instructors.”
The training centre currently operates from two classrooms underneath the sailing club but there are hopes of building a new facility on land owned by the club at Shute Harbour, with plans for the site reported to be worth $5 million.
Mr Christensen called on the State Government to help with the remaining funding. The centre estimates enrolment numbers to quadruple within the first four years of the new centre being open, seeing up to 1200 students enrolled in that time.
Mr Christensen said the investment would see positive impacts community-wide.
"Airlie Beach is an ideal location for maritime training. There are an estimated 3000 skippers currently working in the Whitsunday tourism industry and the demand is set to increase,” he said.
"The construction is something that is going to lead to local construction jobs, more jobs here in the Whitsundays for trained mariners, it's going to help the tourism industry, it's going to help our North Queensland ports, it's got ticks all round.”
Seventy per cent of the centre's enrolments come from students travelling to Airlie Beach to complete training, with the students reported to stay in the area for an average of four weeks.
Mr Rodriguez said with limited maritime training facilities in the country, Airlie Beach had the potential to service students from anywhere in Australia looking for employment at sea or in ports including those in Townsville, Bowen and Mackay.
Ahead of the federal election, Mr Christensen has also made a five-point promise to tourism in the Whitsunday region if re-elected. Speaking with Whitsunday Tourism, Whitsunday Charter Boat Association and other local business, Mr Christensen said his priorities for tourism in the region included securing federal funding for the Whitsunday Skyway project, a permanent cap on the reef tax, a revamp to the backpacker visa, more investment into moorings and a draw back on tourism operator permits.