Fees up, occupancy down for Hillarys boat pens

Hillarys Boat Harbour Pen Holders Association president Evan MacRae has raised concerns about increasing fees and vacancy numbers. Picture: David Baylis d497201
Hillarys Boat Harbour Pen Holders Association president Evan MacRae has raised concerns about increasing fees and vacancy numbers. Picture: David Baylis d497201

DECREASES in boat pen holders at Hillarys Boat Harbour has raised concerns with the need for more pens as part of the Ocean Reef Marina redevelopment.

Hillarys Boat Harbour Pen Holders Association president Evan MacRae said significantly increasing fees had seen the occupancy rate drop, with 117 of the 484 public pens now vacant.

He said last year, the Department of Transport (DoT) had initiated increasing the fees each year by 10 per cent plus CPI (consumer price index) for four years.

So from 2017-18 to 2018-19, this saw fees increase by 11.4 per cent.

For a 10m pen, annual fees went from $5620 to $6260, for a 12m pen from $6744 to $7515, for a 15m pen from $8430 to $9391, and for a 18m pen from $10,116 to $11,269.

If CPI was to remain at 1.4 per cent for the four years of the plan, a 10m pen would eventually cost $8655, 12m would cost $10,385, 15m would cost $12,983 and 18m would cost $15,579.

Mr MacRae said these increases would lead to “emptying a tourism destination” and a “reduced turnover for shop owners” at Hillarys marina.

“Declining numbers at Hillarys cannot be good for the future of the Ocean Reef Marina development,” he said.

“Continued fee increases will only accelerate the decline in numbers and may make Ocean Reef a white elephant.”

However, DoT coastal facilities director Donna West said the majority of the 117 vacant pens were out of service, “either because of a power issue or having been earmarked for the relocation of vessels for the facility’s continued pen replacement program”.

But she did acknowledge that 23 vessels had left the harbour since July 1, 2019.

Nearly a quarter of Hillarys Boat Harbour boat pens are vacant. Picture: David Baylis d497201

“However, in the past four weeks, DoT has filled three pens from the waiting list and 19 pens on a temporary basis,” she said.

“DoT will continue to use the waiting list to fill available vacant pens and is confident occupancy rates will continue to increase.

“The Ocean Reef Marina will accommodate future long-term demand for boat pens identified in planning studies.”

Ms West said government policy required fees to be set “based on user pays principles”.

“In 2019-20, this saw an increase of 11.74 per cent for floating pens at Hillarys,” she said.

“It’s currently proposed that fees will not increase greater than CPI in 2020-21.”

She said fees varied at each facility but the Department of Transport was working to charge the same fees at each of its facilities for similar vessel accommodation options.

Construction of the Ocean Reef Marina is expected to commence in 2020, with all of the planned facility’s 565 boat pens to be constructed in stage one.

Mr MacRae also raised concerns with the possibility of DoT moving Rottnest ferry operations to the north, near the existing fuel jetty.

“Shop owners and pen holders reject this plan outright as it would remove about 300,000 passenger movements away from the shopping precinct,” he said.

Ms West confirmed DoT was reviewing transport to and from Hillarys Boat Harbour “to identify improvements for facility users and the general community”.

“The relocation of the Rottnest ferry within the harbour has been identified as one of 52 issues to be further investigated,” she said.

“DoT will initiate a master planning process in 2020 to consider the issues, along with other new opportunities, to improve operations and optimise the benefits for all visitors, users and business operators in the harbour.

“There will be workshops and feedback opportunities as part of the master plan process mid to late next year.”

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