How did our beautiful Noosa River become an unregulated parking lot?

For all the challenges the Noosa River faces—and there are many—one distresses the Noosa community like no other. The river has become a permanent parking lot for more and more boats, many of them providing cheap holidays for their out-of-town owners.

Some are so poorly maintained they end up as abandoned wrecks. Raw sewage pours out of many of them.

Some waterways in Queensland have controls over where vessels can anchor, and for how long. (The Maroochy River system just to our South, for instance)

Not in Noosa. Here it’s an unregulated free-for-all. 

There’s no time limit—that’s why the number of anchored vessels is continuing to increase.

28-day anchoring limit sinks before it can swim

Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) is the state government agency responsible for managing anchoring in the Noosa River. Early in 2021, MSQ and Noosa Council jointly appointed a 14-member Noosa River Stakeholder Advisory Committee (NRSAC). When I learnt that the new General Manager of MSQ was open to introducing time-limited anchoring in the Noosa River, on behalf of NPA I applied for membership of NRSAC and was appointed.

In July–August 2021, the river committee recommended to MSQ that, by way of regulation, it should impose a 28-day anchoring limit per year to solve the river’s biggest problem. The time limit would not apply to registered moorings.

The General Manager of MSQ undertook to outline in detail a program for consultation, review and refinement of proposed regulations at the following committee meeting. Slowly but surely the bureaucratic wheels began to turn until, suddenly, the General Manager left…having accepted a more senior position elsewhere. From that moment, the bureaucratic wheels ground to a halt and the talkfest continued.

Noosa should accept nothing less than regulated, timed anchoring

Noosa Parks Association believes that, as things stand, there is little prospect of MSQ introducing regulated timed anchoring in the Noosa River in the foreseeable future.

We are also firmly of the view that if Noosa Council and the Noosa community accept anything less, the Noosa River will inevitably keep growing as an unregulated parking lot for more and more anchored boats, only a small percentage of which will be locally owned. It’s time for Noosa Council and the Noosa community to dig in, and accept nothing less than effective regulation like other waterways have in Queensland.

Will Noosa be outmanoeuvred by Maritime Safety Queensland again? There is a danger that Noosa Council and sections of the Noosa community will fail to learn from their experience. Time and again, councillors, council staff, and community representatives have deluded themselves that if they could get MSQ (or its predecessor, Harbours and Marine), to agree to participate in the drafting of a Noosa River Plan full of good intentions, goodwill, fine words, smiles and handshakes, that this would be sufficient to protect the river’s future.

No one has been prepared to address the elephant in the room—MSQ’s failure to agree to, then introduce, time-limited anchoring on the Noosa River through statutory regulation.

Time and again, Noosa’s representatives were outplayed by the dead hand of Harbours and Marine, then MSQ, shifting the endless chat into working groups, advisory groups, and talkfests, and time and again the anchoring free-for-all lived on.

The ongoing charade of putting a little more lipstick on the pig that has been successive versions of the Noosa River Plan has produced no anchoring reforms of significance, because MSQ has danced around the councillors, the staff and community representatives. And it’s looking as though they’re attempting to do it again.

If such gullibility repeats itself, stand by for ever-increasing numbers of anchored boats, floating holiday homes for out-of-towners, live-aboards, abandoned wrecks, visual pollution, and raw sewage going straight into the river.

In a place famous for the way it balances environment, tourism and lifestyle, how do we cut through this bureaucratic black hole that sullies our name and our river, and makes our local leaders look impotent?


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    Yes … In a place famous for the way it balances environment, tourism and lifestyle, how do we cut through this bureaucratic black hole that sullies our name and our river, and makes our local leaders look impotent?

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