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‘No final decision’: DBCA says Horizontal Falls license plans still on the drawing board

Sam JonesBroome Advertiser
Horizontal Falls is a major drawcard.
Camera IconHorizontal Falls is a major drawcard. Credit: Stephen Scourfield/The West Australian

The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions says no decision has been made on proposed licensing changes that could see Kimberley tourism operators forced to stop passing through the world-famous Horizontal Falls.

Local operators were invited to a meeting in Broome on March 14 to discuss changes to the current licensing system for the Lalang-gaddam Marine Park, home to the Horizontal Falls and jointly managed by the DBCA and Dambimangari Aboriginal Corporation.

The destination is extremely popular among visiting travellers, however, the meeting proposed no new licenses would be issued to companies looking to pass through the area.

A DBCA spokesperson said the management partners were currently looking at proposed licensing changes for the broader Talbot Bay anchorage area.

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“The proposed changes are aimed at delivering culturally appropriate tourism and improving safety. The proposed changes were discussed at an annual pre-season meeting with the traditional owners, State and Commonwealth agencies and tour operators,” the spokesperson said.

“No final decision has been made on any potential long-term licensing changes, and discussions will continue with traditional owners and tourism operators.”

Cruise Broome President Shayne Murray said discussions had so far been constructive.

“We’re pretty happy with how the management partners have come to the table,” he said.

“In the past there haven’t been great lines of communication with the industry, so we’re happy that it seems we’re being involved.”

The proposed license changes come after a tumultuous year at the world-famous tourist hotspot, with a boating accident and a croc attack seeing the location constantly in the headlines.

In April, the Falls Express — operated by Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures — was conducting a tour of the natural wonder in Talbot Bay when it ran into trouble, injuring 26 passengers and two crew on board.

The incident prompted a major investigation by Australian Maritime Safety Authority which sent a team of three people to the scene to investigate how and why the accident occurred.

Two AMSA marine inspectors and an investigator have since completed an inspection of the location and the vessel involved in the incident. They also interviewed company personnel onsite.

“At this stage of the investigation, AMSA can confirm that the vessel did not capsize, no people fell in the water and appears to have collided with a rock wall,” the agency said in the days following the incident.

Just six months after the incident, two Horizontal Falls Seaplane Adventures crew members were attacked by a crocodile in Talbot Bay.

The pair had been fishing in a small boat when the crocodile lurched from the water, biting one crew member on the head.

The second crew member quickly moved to help the man and was injured trying to fend off the predator.

Fortunately, their injuries were not serious, with both men recovering in the weeks following the incident.

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