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Australian marine industry and boat owners group irate about government marina proposal

By IBI Magazine/Michael Verdon

The New South Wales Boat Owners Association and Boating Industry Association in Australia have both issued strong statements against a government draft that would change the leasing structure of marinas on Sydney Harbour.

There are currently 37 boatyards and marinas on Sydney Harbour, which accommodate tens of thousands of local boats. According to a story in the Sydney Morning Herald, a draft proposal by the Carr Government could eventually shut down about half of them if certain provisions are introduced into law.

The new proposals impact the leasehold of marinas on the harbour by not allowing the long-term leaseholders the first right to renegotiate a lease, and also prohibiting any goodwill of a marina's assets if it loses the lease.

In a joint statement issued during the week, the NSW Boat Owners Association president, Michael Chapman, and Boating Industry Association general manager, Roy Privett, said the draft commercial lease policy, now out for public review, was totally against commercial interests and would cut public facilities on the harbour in half.

Chapman, a maritime lawyer and former head of the Waterways Authority, told the Herald that, if implemented, the laws would impact owners of the 100,000-plus boats in the harbour.

"We are extremely dismayed at the proposed policy and the lack of foresight and lack of economic and social study to identify the economic and social outcomes of the policies," he said. "Until now, whenever a lease for this area ended, the first option was given to the previous leaseholder. The lease will be put out to market at lease end without even paying the outgoing tenant for their facilities or business goodwill."

Chapman told the paper that marina operators would no longer have any commercial incentive to improve their facilities.

The proposals would also hurt those who could least afford it. "Many boatyard owners are small family businesses that cannot afford to lose facilities without compensation," he said. "Their businesses will be untenable and they will be forced to turn the land over to residential development and retrench their staff."

That, in turn, would cause prices at other marinas to skyrocket. The NSW Boat Owners Association predicted prices could go up 40 per cent.

Privett told the paper that there was also concern about the loss of jobs and closure of small charter businesses. He proposed the government should offer leaseholders a 20-year lease, with a 20-year option. "If the lease is not renewed the lessee should be compensated for the goodwill which has been built up in the business," he said.

(25 April 2005)

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