Award winning seaplane business thwarted from operating in Mandurah

Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures owner Troy Thomas with Tourism Minister Paul Papalia. Photo by The Scene Team.
Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures owner Troy Thomas with Tourism Minister Paul Papalia. Photo by The Scene Team.

HORIZONTAL Falls Seaplane Adventures won three Gold and two Hall of Fame awards at the WA Tourism Awards.

Owned by Dawesville resident Troy Thomas, the company operates in the Kimberley region.

His Swan River Seaplanes enterprise takes tourists from Perth to Margaret River, Rottnest Island and the Pinnacles.

Despite his company operating throughout WA, Mr Thomas is not allowed to operate in his home-town.

Troy Thomas at his Dawesville property.

“I grew up here and our tourist activities would pump millions into the local economy,” he said.

Mr Thomas would like to bring tourists by seaplane from Perth to Mandurah on day trips. Tourists could enjoy aerial views of Mandurah and the waterways, take a boat cruise, enjoy lunch and then fly back to Perth. Tourists on the Margaret River tours could stop in at Mandurah.

An aerial view of the Dawesville Cut.

Mr Thomas said his seaplanes could take off from a floating jetty and a pontoon on the shallow part of the Eastern Foreshore, opposite Mandurah Performing Arts Centre.

“But a Water Act rule says you can’t have seaplanes on the estuary,” Mr Thomas said.

City of Mandurah Mayor Rhys Williams said the City was supportive of Swan River Seaplanes.

“The City wrote to the company in June last year expressing our support of the opportunity and that we would welcome them to the region,” he said.

“We are aware of a number of approval hurdles required by State Government regulations and hope they can be successfully overcome, to provide a great tourism offering in Mandurah.”

A Department of Water and Environmental Regulation spokeswoman said the landing of aircraft within the gazetted Peel Inlet Management area, except in an emergency, was specifically prohibited by the Waterways Conservation Regulations 1981.

“The Waterways Conservation Regulations 1981 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,” she said.

“The Peel-Harvey Estuary is also a Ramsar wetland of international importance, as it is an important area for waterbirds in south-western Australia, and particularly important for migratory birds protected under international agreements and Commonwealth legislation.”

Peel Harvey Catchment Council chief executive Jane O’Malley said the council was grateful the Water Conservation Regulations provided such a level of protection.

“We undervalue the economy of the estuary,” she said.

“Seaplanes are not appropriate because of the disturbance to birds, dolphins and people.

“It would compromise other opportunities such as bird watching.

“It goes against the community endorsed wetland and people’s plan that was the basis of us going to Manila – to protect the wetland habitats of migratory birds.”

Visit Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures.