by Jeni Bone
The new super yacht visa has been greeted with unanimous approval from industry and is already attracting business to Cairns.
Senator Chris Evans launched the new visa on 30 April in Cairns.
Following the launch of the new visa on 31 April, Superyacht Group Great Barrier Reef reported calls from a superyacht owner in New Zealand planning to visit the region.
The new visa allows superyacht crew members multiple-entries into Australia and to work here for up to 12 months on commercial or private superyachts.
Until now, international crews had to apply for more restrictive Maritime Crew or Business Long Stay visas. Launching the visa at Cairns’ Marlin Marina, Immigration Minister Chris Evans said it was integral to economic development in Queensland.
‘It will allow more yachts to come here to operate as charters and we think the flow-on economic benefits are going to be huge,’ he said. ‘The industry tells me a lot more will come and, of course, they’ll spend a lot.’
Visa holders would not take local jobs because any opportunities would be additional to those currently available.
Senator Evans said the new visa will come into effect in October 2008. In the interim, the department will make temporary arrangements from May 1 so that superyacht crews will be able to use the Business Short Stay (456) visa, which is normally only available for people arriving by air and staying for less than three months.
He said the new visa will allow greater flexibility for superyacht operators to extend their stay in Australian waters.
'We want to make Australia the destination of choice for these 24–m-plus superyachts and increase their overall economic benefit to the Australian economy,' Senator Evans said.
Currently, the superyacht tourism industry contributes $150 million each year to Australia's economy and is expected to grow to $500 million over the next five years.
The increasing numbers of vessels will also encourage training and job opportunities in related industries such as ship–building and repair, particularly in regional Queensland.
More at www.dtrdi.qld.gov.au