Marine industry slipping away
By ROXANNE MILLAR
THE Tweed's marine industry could be under threat as the management of the area's only slipway slowly slips from the grasp of local fishermen. The old River Terrace slipway operated at a loss last year and is facing strict Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines that could force its closure. Managed by the Tweed Heads and Coolangatta Professional Fishermen's Association, the slipway cannot afford the EPA upgrade and is looking for funding to remain open. The slipway previously faced a period of closure due to its neglected state. Association secretary Dave Forbes said without funding for the upgrade, hundreds of boats moored in the Tweed would be left without a place to "slip" and have essential work done. Management of the slipway had become harder as the professional boating fleet got smaller and costs increased. "The slipway has belonged to fishermen for 25 years and we are responsible for its upkeep, but as the fleet gets smaller fewer people cop the full weight of costs," he said. "And as a trawler owner I know it is used the least by fishermen, who slip only every 18 months or so. Then we are faced with people who don't pay to use it at all." "We are under threat unless the Tweed Shire Council or State Government come to our aid. "We cannot afford to keep it running unless they do," he said. Tweed mayor Warren Polglase recommended the slipway remain privately managed and its licence be extended to allow for funds to be found. He said it had become very run down and neglected under the fishermen's management, which needed to be outlined properly in a plan. "Council would not get too involved in the funding. I think it needs a complete management plan for the whole area. It is being talked about right now, particularly who does what," he said. "Governments are not meant to run these things." One organisation hoping the slipway keeps operating is the Point Danger Volunteer Marine Rescue, which yesterday used the facilities to prepare its boat for a busy summer. VMR spokesperson John Gnech said the boat had to be anti-fouled and its hull repainted. In the past two years Tweed River bar usage has increased by 30 per cent.