4WD tour groups get extension
FRASER Island four-wheel drive operators have been given a reprieve by Transport Minister Rachel Nolan.
“After the Chronicle’s story today airing our industry’s dire concerns for our survival, the Minister phoned me this morning,” Fraser Coast 4WD Association president Dave Robertson said yesterday.
“She said she’d found the letter I sent a fortnight back begging for help via an extension to our having to convert all troop carriers to forward facing seats – at the cost of $4000 a truck.
“The Minister said she was prepared to give us an extension, we hope maybe six to seven months, providing we came up with a schedule she could look at.
“She said she would not compromise on any safety issues and I agreed.
“This is the first hurdle and it may be sufficient to save a couple of our operators from going to the wall.
“The backpacker industry is in real trouble and we’re all feeling it.”
Mr Robertson was also meeting yesterday with Department of Environment and Resource Management officers to discuss tag-along tour permits.
“The trial period of about nine months ends this month and they’re now saying they will need another trial period of 12 months to gather more information on tag-alongs,” he said.
“We did tell them a year ago we’d need two years.
“But they’re also talking about our tag-along tour operators paying a full commercial rate of some $554 for four trucks.
“We are currently paying a vehicle entry permit of about $40 a vehicle, which adds up to $160 for four trucks in a tag-along – because we are in a trial period.
“If they extend that trial period from February 1 next year we say we should still be paying the trial rate of $40 per vehicle.
The current economic climate was not conducive to hiking up tag-along government fees, Mr Robertson said.
“This would also hurt us too much.”