As a community that enjoys the great outdoors, including all that the wonderful Australian marine lifestyle has to offer, today we are facing pressures like never before. A number of factors are now impacting on recreational boating in ways that will influence how and where we go boating for years to come – not just economically, but also environmentally and regulatory.
This was brought home to me during a recent visit to the Adelaide Boat Show in mid-July. Former SA premier and now Special Drought Adviser to the Premier, Dean Brown delivered a presentation detailing the crisis currently facing the State’s waterways, in particular the Murray River system. He provided a compelling insight into the consequences of years of serious drought and how it is now impacting on one of the nation’s prime water resources.
In recent years, the amount of water feeding into the Murray system has slowed to barely a trickle, in the process resulting in severe disruption to the lives and lifestyles of those downstream. Environmentally, the impact has been major and on-going, with algae blooms, increasing salinity and dropping water levels affecting fish stocks and other wildlife that rely on a healthy river to survive. It was certainly a sobering insight into a major issue that affects the boating and wider communities, but what also caught my attention was Brown’s call for a national approach to the issue, involving stakeholders in all States.
Looking at the marine scene in general, there are a number of other issues now confronting us that also require such a national and unified approach.
In this edition you will read a Guest Editorial from respected marine journalist and fisherman, Alistair McGlashan. ‘Big Al’ as he is known to those who have endured a day fishing with him on a small boat, talks of the current and growing trend to lock out more and more fishing areas to recreational anglers and other boaties. Al argues that while fishing is under more pressure than ever, other groups such as divers continue to have virtually unrestricted access to no-fishing areas and calls for a national and unified response from all concerned parties as the only effective means to defend recreational fishing.
The same could be said for boating and licensing legislation, which has come into sharper focus in recent times. Tragic accidents on waterways close to major population centres have generated negative publicity, sparking calls for harsher penalties and more restrictions. The impact on our boating lifestyle and the Australian marine industry could be severe if a balanced and informed approach isn’t taken by those with the power to make decisions. Again, a consistent national approach would be the way to go, you’d think.
But in all of the above scenarios, where do we find this national perspective; this mechanism for responding to major issues in a united and representative way?
Elsewhere in this issue you will read the sad and curious tale of the demise of the Australian Marine Industries Federation (AMIF). As the peak body for the State-based Boating Industry Associations, AMIF was – or is, depending on who you talk to – supposed to implement national initiatives and marketing strategies for the boating industry, but internal fighting over funding and control saw the BIA of NSW split from AMIF last month, resulting in its collapse. Now there is talk of some, but not all, States trying to resurrect AMIF as an (almost) national body, but it remains to be seen how effective such a body could be without the cohesion, funding and direction it needs.
While AMIF had many detractors, at least in concept, it was an organisation with a national aim; a body that, in theory at least, should have had the ear of the law makers in Canberra and the States. In an ideal world, AMIF – or a body like it – should be able to confront and deal with issues that affect anyone who earns their living or spends their leisure time on the water and is concerned about the marine environment.
At present, boating, both from an industry and recreational lifestyle point of view, has no voice. We boaties are effectively mute and not able to compete with other much louder voices in our community.
Until we develop a truly united and national voice, we won’t be heard, let alone listened to.
Publisher and CEO
Club Marine Limited