Push to give Whitsunday boat owners a break
AS BOATS that were once bustling with tourists are now sitting stagnant in marinas across the Whitsundays, representatives for the region have asked for mooring fees to be waived to provide relief to owners and operators.
Despite not taking any passengers, boat owners and tourism operators are still required to pay berthing fees on their vessels.
However, Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said he was pushing for the State Government to provide relief from payments and give those struggling a much-needed break.
“Tourism Whitsundays, Whitsunday Charter Boat Association and myself have asked for the State Government to extend concessions to Whitsunday tourism operators and boat owners in terms of mooring and marina fees,” he said.
“Our understanding is that operators and boat owners at Cairns marinas that were state controlled had fees waived.
“So what we have asked State Government to do is to quantify that concession to Cairns boat owners and extend it to boat owners in the Whitsundays.”
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 were given a 100 per cent rebate on their marina fees.
While both Port of Airlie and Coral Sea Marina are privately owned, Mr Christensen said a similar assistance package that was backdated to February should be made available for operators in the Whitsundays.
He said it would be up to State Government to decide how this concession was granted and whether it would be given directly to boat owners or to marinas.
In providing relief, Mr Christensen said boat owners and marina owners would be protected.
“The marina owners still have to pay land tax and council rates and insurance costs, so it’s difficult to turn around to a private operator who is subject to a whole heap if fixed costs that you’ve got to slash your fees or get rid of them,” he said.
“Then they are the ones left carrying the can.
“I firmly believe there’s a very strong ethical argument that if you’re going to provide a benefit to tourism operators in one region because of this pandemic, then you’ve really got to provide it to operators in other tourism regions as well.”
Master mariner and skipper for Apollo Whitsundays Lachlan Queenan welcomed Mr Christenen’s appeal and said without assistance the industry would be in dire shape.
“Tourism is the hardest industry hit and it’s going to be the hardest to recover,” he said.
“(Paying fees for) one boat to the tune of $3000 a month is one thing, but when you have multiple boats it’s not just $3000, it’s $6000.
“And marina berthing is just one thing, tourism operators still continue to have to pay full costs for insurance when their circumstances are completely different.
“We should be giving these operators the relief that they deserve, and the State Government should be coming to the table to save an industry that could be virtually extinct at the end of this pandemic.
“If it’s good for the boys in Cairns then it should be good for the boys in the Whitsundays.”
For the meantime, Mr Christensen said he was “waiting with bated breath for an answer” from the State Government.