ASKED TO LEAVE: Ian Brookfield of Bundaberg Whale Watching with his boat at Burnett Heads.
ASKED TO LEAVE: Ian Brookfield of Bundaberg Whale Watching with his boat at Burnett Heads. Mike Knott BUN270918WHALE4

New Bundy tourism operator hits out after cops called in

A BUNDABERG tourism operator has called for the council to take control of the port, arguing its current incorporation into the Gladstone Port Corporation is stifling economic opportunities.

Having recently launched what he says is Bundaberg's first only exclusive whale-watching tour, Ian Brookfield says he has become increasingly frustrated by what he sees as restrictive practices by the corporation.

Mr Brookfield said the port had called police on him to ensure he removed his $2 million boat from its mooring.

A spokesperson for the corporation yesterday confirmed police were contacted after efforts to reach an "amicable solution" failed.

The contention centres around what Mr Brookfield calls Bundaberg's only commercial wharf. The Port, however, says it is a public jetty.

Mr Brookfield said he been informed by the Port that he was not allowed to use signs promoting his business on the jetty.

He said members of the public using the jetty had thrown rotten fish onto his boat and on one occasion cut the ropes, which caused it to float off.

He claimed the State Government had advised him the area was the only commercial wharf in Bundaberg, however, the NewsMail has been unable to confirm this.

Currently, he said he used the site for passengers to embark and disembark from the boat.

A spokesperson for the Gladstone Ports Corporation said "the public jetty is required to be accessible for the community to ensure all fishers and boaties have fair and safe use of the facilities".

"Unfortunately, a commercial operator has recently inhibited access to the jetty by the general public," the spokesperson said.

"GPC has on numerous occasions met with the company regarding the appropriate use of the public jetty. "GPC also initiated conversations with local marina facilities to gauge alternative berth availability for the operator and passed these details on to the owner."

However, the spokesperson said despite GPC's best efforts for an amicable solution, it "was obligated to contact police to ensure safety and accessibility to the public facility".

Mr Brookfield said it was time for Bundaberg Regional Council to take over the running of the port to enable it to reach its economic potential.

Earlier this month, a study was released showing that developing major infrastructure linked to the Port of Bundaberg would create 24,735 new jobs and deliver $6 billion in economic activity.

The modelling by Deloitte Access Economics was contained in a report prepared for Bundaberg Regional Council, the Wide Bay Burnett Regional Organisation of Councils and Gladstone Ports Corporation.

Bundaberg councillor Scott Rowleson, whose division incorporates the port, yesterday said he had spoken with both Mr Brookfield and representatives of the port about the current situation.

However, Cr Rowleson said the council had "no jurisdiction".

Another successful boat operation - the Lady Musgrave Experience - runs out of the nearby Bundaberg Port Marina.

Mr Brookfield said he had been told the marina was fully occupied.

However, Bundaberg Port Marina general manager Brett Hensler said he was open to other commercial operators working out of the venue as long as they had the relevant permits and insurances and aligned with the port business's goal of offering a quality service as "one of the best marinas on the east coast".

The GPC spokesperson said it was committed to supporting the growth and development of the Bundaberg region.

"GPC is working with developers to progress the Burnett Heads Marina facilities in line with its strategic planning for the port precinct," the spokesperson said.

"The new facility is envisioned to provide well over 200 berths when fully developed and GPC is confident that this will boost the region's economic growth."