By BELINDA F SCOTT
FIVE-star prices, but only one-and-a-half star facilities was the accusation levelled at the Coffs Harbour International Marina during a weekend meeting of boat owners.
Steve Brown and Paul D'Olier's Holiday Coast Yachting business depends on their yacht, B52, which is moored at the marina.
Mr Brown said if the marina managers improved the marina and brought it up in class, the new fees would be justified, but it was not fair to hike up the fees 'on a veiled promise'.
Those sentiments were echoed by many at the meeting, which saw 57 boaties gathered at the Yacht Club on Saturday afternoon for the first gathering of the Coffs Harbour Boat Owners Group.
The owners were upset by what they described as rude and abrupt treatment to loyal and longstanding customers by the new owners of the marina, who have imposed steep price increases and demanded boat owners sign new undertakings on insurance and mooring licences.
One owner even reported seeing a local yacht chained to the marina during a disagreement over payments, with the chain only removed after intervention by an influential businessman.
The price hikes will see many owners in 2007 paying double what they paid in 2006 to moor their boats in the marina.
At least 12 boat owners said they planned to take their boats out of the marina if there was no compromise. Some have already left.
The Group's first president is Jeff Leonard, who has been joined by a committee of seven other boat owners to negotiate with the marina owners, to investigate the standards to be met by marinas, and to liaise with the Lands Department on their concerns.