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  • Renee Cluff

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    Cruise operators fear Cairns marina fee review won’t be fair

    The Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) has raised concerns an independent review into what it calls ‘exhorbitant’ fees at the Marlin Marina in Cairns won’t be objective.

    AMPTO claims the cost of berthing in Cairns is the highest on Australia’s east coast.

    The review into the fee schedule was detailed in Parliamentary Estimates this week.

    “To progress with negotiations, Ports North is proposing to include an independent review process as a condition of the commercial agreements, based on a user-pays principle,” Transport Minister Mark Bailey said.

    However, AMPTO Executive Director Col McKenzie has questioned the process.

    “An independent review needs to be done by an independent person,” he said.

    “My understanding is that Ports North are using a top tier legal company to write the terms of reference and that they will employ an independent person to run the review.

    “Normally when there’s this kind of dispute it goes to something like the Queensland Law Society and a mediator that’s acceptable to both sides and then you would present your case.”

    Mark Bailey is adamant the current pricing structure is justified.

    “The facilities were constructed with a significant investment by Ports North,” he said.

    “Ports North is now seeking an appropriate return on that investment.

    “An independent review of Ports North’s pricing showed that the existing reef fleet revenues represented only 51.3 per cent of the maximum allowable revenues under a regulated pricing model.

    “If the prices were regulated, the charges imposed by Ports North could be doubled.”

    Col McKenzie reckons that's ludicrous.

    “No matter how you look at this we’re paying 200% more than Port Douglas, we’re paying 300% more than the Whitsundays,” he said.

    “The difference is Ports North is a government-owned instrumentality and they have a total monolopy.”

    Mr McKenzie fears operators will sink if the pricing isn’t reduced.

    “The whole situation shows a lack of empathy,” he said.

    “Tourism in Cairns is in a lot of trouble and we’re about 30% lower than what we were doing in the peak year in 1997.

    “We’re an industry in a world of hurt and we’re not asking for a handout, we’re just asking for proper mediation, set a proper commercial rate before we enter into another 15 year lease.”