FRUSTRATED: James King, left, and Karl Bowman from Queensland Sporting Hovercraft.
FRUSTRATED: James King, left, and Karl Bowman from Queensland Sporting Hovercraft. Alistair Brightman

Wide Bay hovercraft group sees red over state laws

MEMBERS of a Wide Bay hovercraft group are calling for an overhaul of state legislation they claim is crippling their club activities in the Fraser Coast.

But the negotiations with the Department of Environment and Science have left some members of the Queensland Sporting Hovercraft Club "frustrated” at the sheer amount of red tape and regulations that need to be met for simple cleanups and club meets.

Instead the group is hopeful a pending review of the zoning plan for the Great Sandy Marine Park will allow the current conditions to be relaxed.

James King, a Hervey Bay resident and hovercraft owner, said many of the members can't afford the public liability insurance required for club activities, which can be in excess of $1000 for each member.

Under Queensland law the standard level of PLI for activities undertaken on Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service-managed areas is about $20 million.

"It's unfair because the impacts, weight class and sizes of our light recreational hovercrafts are much different to the large commercial ones identified in the legislation,” Mr King said.

"We don't do the kind of damage that the heavy-class vehicles do, yet there's no discretion applied by the DES to give us more lenient conditions.

"It's very frustrating for us because we believe they've been ignoring the evidence of the impacts of light hovercraft vehicles.”

Mr King said the hefty insurance requirements meant some club members could not participate in simple activities such as cleanup events, effectively limiting their potential to tackle plastic pollution.

But the Department said they had agreed to reduce the PLI amount for a number of hovercraft permit holders and would consider reducing the current requirement if clubs could demonstrate an insurance event would not result in more than $20 million.

"There is no cost to obtain a marine park permit in Queensland state waters,” a DES spokeswoman told the Chronicle.

"Currently, a permit is required to operate a hovercraft, both recreational and commercial, in a marine park in Queensland.

"Hovercrafts, unlike jet skis and boats, can transverse over sand and mudflats which can be environmentally sensitive and productive areas like mangroves, seagrass meadows and shorebird nesting sites.”

The Great Sandy Marine Park extends from Baffle Creek south of Gladstone to Double Island Point and includes Hervey Bay, the Great Sandy Strait, Tin Can Bay Inlet and the waters off the east coast of Fraser Island.

Whales, dugongs, grey nurse sharks and protected seagrasses and mangroves are found in the marine areas.

The State Government is currently reviewing the zoning plan for the marine park to better manage the protected region.



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