Jet boats get right to ride
TWEED Shire Councillors yesterday rejected the pleas and placards of protesters to give the green light to controversial jet-boat tours along the Tweed River.
Their decision was applauded by businessman Chris Pena, whose family company had applied for council approval to bring its jet boat which provides high-speed thrill rides in the ocean off Coolangatta into the river for “scenic trips” to Murwillumbah.
Mr Pena said he hoped to initially begin the tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then “see how it holds up” with passengers before expanding the operations.
The proposal had been backed by Tweed Tourism general manager Phil Villiers and various businesses.
But it sparked fierce opposition from a range of residents' groups who said it would worsen river bank erosion and run counter to hopes of encouraging eco-tourism on the Tweed.
Several dozen protesters gathered outside the council chambers before the meeting, then held placards in the public gallery, occasionally booing Mr Pena when he criticised Greens Party councillor Katie Milne for her campaign against his operation and called for the river to be “shared by everyone”.
Only Cr Milne and deputy mayor Barry Longland supported the protesters, failing in a series of amendments to either block or defer approval, or restrict the jet boat tours to as little as one day a week.
Mayor Joan van Lieshout led the argument for approval, declaring the jet boat tours should be given a six-month trial.
“I'm against deferring this. It could go on forever,” she said. “I believe everyone should have opportunity.
“This family has a business they want to introduce and they deserve to have a chance to show us what they can and cannot do.”
Cr Dot Holdom won support for some extra conditions limiting slow cruising speeds to avoid waves dam- aging river banks and banning night-time operation.
Cr Longland failed in a bid to stop the jet boats going south of the Condong bridge and potentially interfering with rowing practice and competitions.