4WD operators left to wait
LOCAL 4WD operators fear State Government delays in finalising Fraser Island tag-along tour laws could gut the island’s $1.8 billion annual tourist revenue.
“The transport department promised us in writing back in September they’d implement tag-along rules prior to this Christmas,” Fraser Island 4WD Association secretary Dave Robertson said yesterday.
“Guess what? They’re once again fluffing us around, telling us just last week that they may not have given enough notice and that they will need more time.
“We believe that if another accident, fatal or not, happens on Fraser while the department is nutting out what it really wants to do, that the minister, Rachel Nolan, will make a decision on the run and may even ban everyone from the island except on a guided tour.”
Mr Robertson says he bases his belief on the department already stating its options for driving on Fraser were: reducing roof loading and seats in vehicles, initiating tag-along tours, banning all international licence holders from driving there or making island tours guided only. “They’ve painted themselves into a corner and we believe they may now put the hire vehicle businesses out of business here.
“We have agreed with Ms Nolan that we will accept a seven-seat limit with no roof loading in our dry hire vehicles – that’s vehicles hired by tourists.
“For tag-along tours where a professional driver leads a convoy, we want 10 seats per vehicle or our costs will soar so much we’ll have to offload some of them on to the tourists and that may be prohibitive.
“Our local head of tourism here, Damien Massingham, and I met with Ms Nolan in Brisbane in Parliament House on October 28 and canvassed all this stuff with her but now her department people are saying they need more time.”
Mr Robertson said the Department of Environment and Resource Management and its minister Kate Jones had been “fine about all this”.
“I hear the two departments are actually meeting on December 11 over this matter. More delays.” A Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesman said yesterday the department “remains committed to addressing safety concerns with regard to 4WD hire operations on Fraser Island and has consulted closely with the industry”.
The last meeting with affected operators was on November 17.
“The Minister for Transport also met with industry representatives and she is currently considering the matters they brought to her attention. There will be a response in the near future.”
At the October 28 meeting with the minister, Mr Massingham presented a Power Point show with island accident figures based on government statistics.
“We proved beyond any doubt that car/station wagon crashes are not due to the number of passengers in the vehicle.
“But Ms Nolan didn’t seem too happy to hear that.
“We want them to stop procrastinating and to allow us to introduce tag-alongs with up to 10 passengers per tourist vehicle.
“And we want it done urgently before someone else is injured or dies needlessly on the island.”