Whale permits in jeopardy if Bay operators don't toe line
FRASER Coast whale watching operators have been warned they risk losing their permits to operate if they don't toe the State Government line.
The local operators said they had been trying to meet with the government to negotiate a potential restructure of their fees for weeks, following a decision to allow operators in other parts of Queensland to watch whales without any fees.
Peter Lynch from Blue Dolphin Tours and Jason Brigden from Whalesong Cruises said the Department of National Parks informed them they had to pay their last commercial activity agreement fees, or the permits would be suspended.
Mr Brigden said this would affect the whole region.
"Whale watching fills a lot of beds and restaurants in the region," he said.
He said the fees hadn't been paid yet as the permits were two years overdue for their scheduled review, and the recent changes for the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast meant this was the ideal time to discuss options to restructure them to level the playing field.
Mr Lynch said he had been in constant contact with the department about this issue, before suddenly being told his permit could be suspended.
National Parks Minister Steve Dickson said the State Government was committed to helping whale watching on the Fraser Coast.
"Whale watching in Hervey Bay is an iconic tourism experience, which is why the Newman government is investing $400,000 this year on the Harvey and the Humpbacks campaign, and a further $100,000 to assist local operators get the most from whale watching tourism," he said.
Mr Lynch said he wanted to know how the State Government was keeping its promise to reduce red tape when it came to Fraser Coast whale watching.
"My red tape expenses have not reduced by a cent," he said.
Both operators said they were disappointed Hervey Bay MP Ted Sorensen had not done more to help the local industry.
"He has been very quiet," Mr Lynch said.
Mr Sorensen said he was going to bring Mr Dickson and Tourism minister Jann Stuckey to Hervey Bay in July.
He said this would give operators more time to discuss the issues than they would get if they formed a delegation to go to Brisbane.
Mr Dickson agreed.
"I'm looking forward to working together with Hervey Bay whale watching operators in coming weeks, as we have been over the past 18 months," he said.