Operators have been ‘completely and utterly ignored’
A LACK of financial support for operators berthed at private marinas has been slammed by an Airlie Beach marina owner who says the region has been “completely and utterly ignored”.
Former Deputy Premier and Treasurer Jackie Trad announced a $3.67 million fee relief package for operators at the Cairns Marina on February 14.
Under the relief package, commercial and reef operators in Cairns were given a 100 per cent rebate on their marina fees.
The same assistance has not been given to tourism operators berthed at Coral Sea Marina as it is privately owned.
However, owner of Coral Sea Marina Paul Darrouzet said it was “wrong and unfair” that Whitsunday operators had not received more assistance to help the cover costs.
“Why would you look after operators in Cairns … and completely and utterly ignore the Whitsundays totally?” he said.
“Our people have suffered the same loss of revenue as Cairns.
“It’s like half of the classroom gets all the lollies and the other half gets nothing.”
Mr Darrouzet has discounted berthing fees for operators moored at the marina but said the costs of running the marina itself meant he could only help so much.
He called on the State Government to extend the lifeline through a direct rebate to operators, who he said had been “on their knees for a long time”.
Executive secretary of the Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association Sharon Smallwood echoed these concerns, saying that while Mr Darrouzet had done all he could to help, the State Government needed to step in to help operators who were “haemorrhaging” money.
“Private individuals have been expected to provide the same kind of assistance as a government was able to do using taxpayer funds,” she said.
“There’s no comparison, it’s just not possible for someone like Paul (Darrouzet) to do what the Queensland Government has done.
“The outcome is that our Whitsunday operators are at a significant disadvantage when you compare them to Cairns operators, and they should be compared because they are directly parallel in the volume of business they do.
“They’ve been haemorrhaging money while they’ve had zero income … and that needs to be taken into account because that’s not sustainable.”
The Whitsunday region makes up approximately 40 per cent of the $6.3 billion reaped through Great Barrier Reef visitation.
Ms Smallwood said this was in line with Cairns and therefore there should be a similar funding package that reflected the Whitsundays’ contribution to the State Government through tourism.
“For a region that does punch way above its weight and provides that significant amount of visitation (that) is comparable to Cairns and therefore provides as much in revenue to the government coffers, the outcomes need to be the same,” she said.
“This is not about us and them, these are our friends and colleagues. Not one operator here would want to take away from operators in Cairns what has been given to them.
“The point is, our operators need it too.”
A spokesman for the Minister for Employment and Small Business said the State Government had provided support through other means for operators moored at private marinas.
“On Tuesday we announced a further $100 million in support for small businesses under round two of our Small Business COVID-19 Adaption Grants,” he said.
“Daniel Gschwind from the Queensland Tourism Industry Council said these further grants would be welcomed by the tourism industry and make a huge difference to their recovery.”
This is in addition to existing support packages including energy rebates of $500 to small and medium sized businesses, waiving registration renewal fees for inbound tour operators and waiving of daily fees for commercial activity agreements and permits.
However, without some form of financial assistance for berthing fees, Ms Smallwood feared for the future of the industry.
“I think it will be the difference between some people being to stay afloat and reopen their doors or not,” she said.
“It’s not even just about being able to reopen, it’s about being able to reopen in a safe and quality manner.
“These people have no reserves, nothing left, they still need to be able to invest in vessels and products so the Whitsundays can continue to be one of the jewels in Australia’s crown.”