Tourism Council WA CEO weighs in on seaplanes in Mandurah push

Mandurah family Troy, Sophie and Mia Thomas celebrate three gold medals at the Australian Tourism Awards.
Mandurah family Troy, Sophie and Mia Thomas celebrate three gold medals at the Australian Tourism Awards.

TOURISM Council WA chief executive Evan Hall claims red tape is holding back eco-tourism and called for the State government to allow new tourism products.

He made the comments after Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures won three gold medals and was inducted into the Hall of Fame at the Australian Tourism Awards.

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Mr Hall said Horizontal Falls offered a quality product with a high standard of environmental management in the North West.

Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures owner Troy Thomas lives in Mandurah and wants to bring his seaplane venture to the Peel region. However, the landing of aircraft in the Peel Inlet is prohibited by the Waterways Conservation Regulations 1981.

A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation spokeswoman said the regulations remain in place for the Peel Harvey Estuary and provide enhanced protection status given the estuary’s ecological importance and sensitivity to surrounding land uses.

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Mr Hall said legislation had become a barrier for eco-tourism.

He said there was no reason why Mr Thomas’ seaplanes could not operate in the Peel Harvey Estuary with an E class licence. E class licences take into account environmental considerations and are limited for sustainability.

“It would not be a free-for-all,” Mr Hall said.

He said legislative barriers needed reform because they were “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.”

“There should be a mechanism that takes into account operators who meet environmental and sustainability conditions.”

Mr Hall said Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures operated successfully in a North West marine park with an E class licence. He said the company was reputable and had a high standard of environmental management.

Mr Hall said WA’s success at the tourism awards showed what the industry was capable of when new proposals were approved.

“When the State Government works with the tourism industry to approve new product and experiences, the industry is capable of developing exceptional, nation-leading product,” he said.

Mr Hall described Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures as a bucket-list hero product that attracted tourists from around the world.

“It is critical that the tourism industry is allowed and encouraged to develop new tourism product providing unique experiences to visitors.”

Water Minister Dave Kelly said supporting new tourism ventures, where possible, to create more jobs and grow the local economy was a key priority for the Government.

“I have asked my Department for advice on this matter,” he said.

“I understand that Peel-Harvey Estuary is habitat to internationally and federally protected bird species and list as a Ramsar wetland of international importance.

“Given that our natural environment is one of our biggest tourism drawcards we need to ensure we are not impacting on it through any new tourism operations.”

MANDURAH NEWS