David Robertson from Safari 4WD Hire with one of his Toyota Troop Carriers.
David Robertson from Safari 4WD Hire with one of his Toyota Troop Carriers. Karleila Thomsen

4WD tour operations under threat

THE FRASER Island 4WD/backpacker business may go down the tubes if the State Government doesn't grant an extension to its demand that all troop carriers be converted to forward facing, seven to eight-seaters by January.

“We're on our knees and begging,” Dave Robertson, president of the Fraser Coast 4X4 Hire Association, said yesterday.

“I've approached the transport minister, Rachel Nolan, a fortnight ago and we're now talking with transport officers about this unprecedented crisis. They're telling us they want absolutely all the details of what's going on by November 19 and they're being helpful.”

Mr Robertson said the industry is down across the board by 60 per cent from this time last year.

“It's the worst we've experienced for up to 15 years.

“I'm talking about 120 troop carriers across our nine members of the association.

“A couple have already closed down. Beaches and the late George Kotis' Kookaburra.

“The Fraser Island Company is in liquidation.

“Seventy-five per cent of our Fraser Island vehicles are these troop carriers.

“It's costing us $4000 to convert each vehicle. Some operators have 25 of them. That's $100,000 they have to find before January.

“There's not enough time now even if they do manage to borrow the money.

“At the moment our troop carriers carry 11 people. We have to get them down to seven to eight and all forward facing.

“It's not going to happen. We're in dire straits.”

Mr Robertson believed fewer than five troop carriers had so far been converted.

Fraser Island was, he said, the lynch pin of backpacker travel on the eastern coast of Queensland, and that if you took that out you would see a significant number of backpackers coming to the state no longer heading our way.

“This crash is going to have far deeper ramifications.”

Mr Robertson said they'd love six months' grace but “we'll take anything”. “We're going under.”



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