Boat ban on the horizon for Horizontal Falls

Cruise ships may no longer be able to offer boat excursions through the iconic Kimberley destination, Janie Medbury reports.

A JET boat crash in the Kimberley region’s Horizontal Falls last year has prompted Western Australian Indigenous elders to propose a ban on the popular cruise ship excursion activity.

Several passengers were airlifted to hospital in May last year after sustaining injuries when a Journey Beyond tour boat impacted a rock wall as it moved through fast-flowing rapids.

The incident led the Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation (DAC), which represents the traditional owners of the Horizontal Falls, to launch a 12-month consultation process involving traditional owners, tour operators, DAC, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) and Tourism WA.

The proposed ban would prevent boats from passing through the falls, without completely blocking access to the area. “Traditional owners would like to stress that closure only refers to vessels passing through the gaps,” a DAC spokesperson said, adding that the organisation has heard tourism operators’ concerns.

“We are committed to continuing to work closely with the tourism industry and state government on a multi-year staged closure that incorporates feedback and provides clear time frames to account for forward bookings and enable businesses to plan for change.”

When the idea of a ban was first raised in March, local tourism operators were told that no new licences would be issued to companies looking to pass through the falls. This prompted some operators to voice concerns about potential losses and future business viability, with WA Tourism Minister Rita Saffioti making assurances that the state government was working to resolve the issue.

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