by Bob Wonders
Mindless bureaucracy ends Gold Coast's ambitions to regularly host world class powerboat racing.
Starter sends the field away at the Gold Coast F1 Superboat Series. -
The Queensland Gold Coast is set to become the laughing stock of world power boating competition after senseless and needless red tape scuttled any likelihood of future world class racing.
Marine Safety Queensland, the Gold Coast Water Police and the State Government’s Work Safe authority have all played a role in ensuring that Australia and the Gold Coast misses out on hosting events capable of attracting competitors from across the world and in excess of 20,000 big spending spectators.
Australian Power Boat Association (APBA) president, Tony Walsh, has described the situation as ‘ludicrous.’
'Authorities have done everything possible to prevent the Formula I and Formula II Superboats from ever appearing on the Gold Coast again, 'he said.
'As far as I’m concerned, what they’ve done borders on criminal.
'All the authorities involved have gone way beyond their boundaries;what we have had to contend with has been an absolute bloody disgrace,' he declared.
Walsh said one person in particular, Sergeant Mark Kelly, of the Gold Coast Water Police, could be held ‘largely accountable.’
'This so-called public servant did everything he could to prevent us racing here,' Walsh said.
'As far as the APBA is concerned he went way beyond his boundaries, even telephoning other authorities to step in and help prevent the racing.'
During the past week, more than 120 delegates from the powerful Union Internationale Motonautique( UIM), the world governing body of powerboat racing, have been on the Gold Coast for the first general assembly held in Australia.
Walsh said every member of the group had expressed their ‘tremendous admiration’ for the Gold Coast, the organisation and the hospitality.
The gala weekend of powerboat racing, comprising offshore, Formula I and Formula II and Unlimited Displacement Classes, had all been staged for the benefit of the visiting delegates and in the hope that Australia could confirm a place on the UIM’s 2009 calendar.
'Sadly, any hope of that’s now out the nearest window,' Walsh said.
'UIM officials will now choose those nations which aren’t enveloped in the ridiculous red tape that is strangling the sport here in Queensland.'
I can well understand the frustration obviously being felt by Walsh and his APBA colleagues.
Some of the things I heard over the weekend relating to the ‘bureaucratic meddling’ bordered on disgraceful.
For example, all the boats being used by officials, start boats, rescue boats and the like, were vessels legally registered under the required maritime regulations.
So what did Marine Safety Queensland do?
Demanded that all those craft be registered as commercial vessels!
What total nonsense!
Marine Safety Queensland apparently rates the powerboat racing as a 'high risk event.'
Fair enough, no dispute there, it can be risky.
However, the APBA and its associated bodies, such as the F1 Superboat Series, the Offshore Superboat Championships and all the other classes involved take safety very seriously indeed.
Without exception they are extremely professional.
During seemingly endless meetings with mindless bureaucrats, Walsh pointed out that the highly successful Indy Car 300 staged on the Gold Coast was also a 'high risk event.'
'They told me that was different,' a still annoyed Walsh explained.
'Good grief, spectators are within feet of vehicles travelling at 300km/hr-plus – if one was to lose a wheel that could be catastrophic, it could cut through the crowd like a missile.
'How the hell could powerboat racing be seen as more high risk than that?
'These people are just over the top, really.'
I have never met this Sergeant Mark Kelly, the Gold Coast Water Police officer who has come in for some heavy criticism.
I can tell you this about him – several weeks ago, when the new EPIRB regulations came into force, I telephoned Sgt Kelly to seek his comments for a quote or two in a story I did for Powerboat-World.
The Sergeant was ‘out on the water’, I was told, so I left a message explaining the reason for my call and asking for a return call. I did not receive the courtesy of a return call.
Perhaps the sergeant was out investigating ways and means to keep powerboats off 'his' waterways?