The Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry Association (WCBIA) is a not-for-profit Membership based organisation that, through advocacy and education represents the interests and values of its Members to all levels of Government and Industry.

Whilst 2022/23 saw the progressive return of passenger numbers from overseas, in the later part of the year domestic arrivals decreased, lured overseas by cheaper tour and accommodation rates in neighbouring countries. Exacerbating this situation has been the ever increasing costs of doing business in Australia and ever increasing burdens placed upon our Industry by the Government.

The Government has been investigating significant increases in AMSA charging arrangements and extinguishing grandfathered Certificates of Operation for commercial vessels. WCBIA has pushed back against these potentially significant imposts through submissions and consultation, including representations via our seat on the AMSA North Regional Safety Committee.

The current Specific Exemptions for carriage of lifejackets in tenders expired in November this year and the WCBIA has successfully negotiated a Special Exemption that allows Tenders to operate without the requirement of lifejackets onboard for all POB.

Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) Environmental Management Charging (EMC) was reintroduced on July 1st,  with Operators responsible for EMC collection and passenger education. GBRMPA is currently reviewing reef-wide EMC arrangements with a view to charging all Park Users, but this will take time and possibly face opposition from the various lobby groups. WCBIA has proposed via submissions and through our voice on the GBRMPA Local Marine Advisory Committee (LMAC) that GBRMPA should be responsible for EMC collection and all Park User education. We are pushing for the introduction of a QR code App to enable this and have offered to trial the system in the Whitsundays rather than waiting for Reef-wide solutions which could be a long time coming.

WCBIA is lobbying GBRMPA to introduce Special Management Areas that could lead to a separation of swimming, snorkelling and diving, from recreational fishing. Current Zoning arrangements see the potential and indeed the occurrence of these conflicting use activities in Yellow and Blue Zones. The following sites have been identified as warranting GBRMPA “Special Management Area” consideration: Chalkies Beach; Black Island SE corner (just missed by the Green Zone); Northwest Hook Passage (where public moorings exist); Cockatoo Point (North end of Stonehaven Anchorage); The Keyhole (South end of Stonehaven Anchorage) & Saba or Mackerel Bay (NE Hook Island).

Other challenges facing our Industry now and in the year ahead include skilled and unskilled labour shortages, a staff accommodation crisis, supply chain disruptions, increasing insurance and fuel costs and the re-emergence of travel agent commission demands.

The spectre of extinguishing or reducing the off-road fuel rebate reappeared as a political football once again this year and WCBIA joined forces with AMPTO to successfully push back vigorously against this. How to affect out-of-control P&I insurance premiums, resulting from ever-increasing claim amounts has been another focus of WCBIA’s lobbying efforts.

Legislation, allowing “no-win no-fee” legal representation has been identified as the primary cause of this huge claims epidemic. WCBIA, AMPTO, QTIC and ATEC have all joined the cry for legislative change to cap claims amounts, in line with the New Zealand Adventure Tourism insurance model. Work in this area has the potential to significantly reduce Members’ premiums.

WCBIA also worked hard with AMPTO to lobby for the inclusion of Commercial Tourist Vessels in the newly introduced Federal Government Reinsurance Pool for Storm Events. When this takes effect it has the potential to reduce hull and rig premiums.

WCBIA lobbied tirelessly with the Council, State Government and the business community for the establishment of a Designated Area Migration Agreement (DAMA). A DAMA is a formal agreement between the Australian Government and a regional economic body that provides businesses access to overseas workers, providing flexibility & responsiveness not available through the standard skilled visa programs. This is now progressing under the leadership of the Whitsunday Coast Chamber of Commerce.

The WCBIA has worked with TAFE, the Whitsunday Maritime Training Centre, the Department of Industry & Training and other interested groups to identify and simplify access to Traineeships and Training funding for our Members. This has resulted in significant uptake of subsidised training positions for Member Operators and Certificate Three training subsidies for Members’ employees.

Climate change continues to wreak havoc with weather conditions, and the Great Barrier Reef remains under threat. The WCBIA represents the interests of its Members on the following committees and working groups to ensure that our Industry voice is heard and Member interests are represented. (AMPTO) the Australian Association of Marine Park Operators; (TRAC) Tourism Reef Advisory Council; GBRMPA (LMAC) Local Marine Advisory Council; AMSA North Safety Committee; Whitsunday Marine Risk Management Group (insurance); Whitsunday Healthy Heart Steering Group; Healthy Rivers to Reef Partnership; Whitsunday Water Quality Monitoring Project; Reef Islands Initiative Advisory Group; Boats 4 Coral; Coral Nurture Program; Seagrass Propagation Program; Whitsundays Shark Control Group; Marine Tourism Workforce, Skills and Training Committee.

Membership makes all of this possible. Without it, there would be no collective voice representing the interests and values of the Whitsunday Charter Boat Industry.