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Maria Island ferry operations

02/11/2007

The Minister for Tourism, Arts and the Environment, Paula Wriedt, today said ongoing provision of ferry services to Maria Island National Park would be provided to the public on an open market approach, with financial support available over the winter months.

Ms Wriedt said that by opening the market, a range of experiences could be provided by different operators, in conjunction with the traditional daily crossings.

Following the withdrawal of the Maria Island Company's ferry service in August 2007, Ms Wriedt said the Parks and Wildlife Service had been exploring options for the provision of ferry services to Maria Island into the future.

"After considerable consultation with potential ferry operators and local community representatives, it has been decided that an open market approach will be pursued," Ms Wriedt said.

"There will be no restrictions on the number of ferry service licences issued to access the Darlington jetty on Maria Island and there will be the provision of financial assistance to support winter operations."

Ms Wriedt said this approach would provide the best business environment to facilitate the development of quality, innovative and reliable ferry and boat tour services to Maria Island.


"Following the withdrawal of the previous ferry operator it was fortunate that one operator, Seawings, took up the opportunity for the short-term to provide a daily ferry service to the island and those efforts are much appreciated," Ms Wriedt said.

"My advice is that Seawings intends to continue providing a mix of experiences, including an 'express' ferry as well as value-added extended boat tours to Maria Island.

"This is the type of innovative approach that I hope will be fostered by the open market approach."

Ms Wriedt said that while the Government believes that there is a solid commercial opportunity for an operator to provide a regular ferry service to the island in summer, it also recognises that the quiet winter and shoulder seasons present a commercial challenge.

To address this operating environment, a Contract for Services Tender will be released shortly seeking an operator or group of operators to commit to a minimum level of ferry service in the shoulder and winter months in return for a fixed annual payment.

Ms Wriedt said that with this new arrangement in place it is hoped that Maria Island can start to realise its obvious potential as a unique island experience that incorporates a blend of cultural and environmental heritage and scenic appeal all in close proximity to Hobart.

"I strongly believe that there is the potential for growth in use by Tasmanian school groups and families as well as interstate and international visitors."