Murray River Recreational Use Ban Causes Confusion Among Tour Operators

Tour operators that rely on the Murray River in South Australia are agreeing to new rules barring all non-essential water activities until further notice.

Matt Voigt, owner of Renmark River Cruises for three years, said he doesn’t know how his business will survive the state government’s ban on recreational activities.

The state government on Tuesday announced a ban on swimming, boating, as well as motorized and manual boats in the Murray River between the New South Wales border and Victoria and Wellington.

The ban does not apply to people working on or visiting their own properties, making essential deliveries, or responding to emergencies.

Voigt halted the boat rental part of their business in November, but they continued to offer cruises so people had a chance to see the flooded river.

He said that now he will have to cancel the reservations.

“We were waiting at some point, but now that the peak is almost here, we thought maybe they wouldn’t shut down the river completely,” Voigt said.

“I understand why they’ve done it with recreational users: there’s a bit of danger out there.

“But when we are trained and qualified to get people to the water safely… I don’t see any reason why the commercials should close.”

The government has signaled that the restrictions are not likely to be lifted until after the flood peaks have passed in January.

“We were struggling before, now we’ve shut down completely and with no real date in sight,” Voigt said.

“They’re talking about the end of January. That’s crazy. I don’t know how I’m going to survive that.”

A small cruise ship sits idyllic on the banks of the River Murray
All recreational activity is prohibited in the Murray River between the NSW-Victoria border and Wellington. (ABC News: Ethan Rix)

But this morning, Emergency Services Minister Joe Szakacs said there were exemptions for private operators who captained “their own boats or used their own boats for commercial purposes” and said Voigt can “absolutely” continue to operate his business. .

He denied there had been a miscommunication about the rules and did not apologize for the confusion companies are facing.

“Yesterday’s declaration … provided and continues to provide critical exemptions,” Szakacs said.

“I don’t think there was a miscommunication.”

However, he was less clear when asked if canoe tours were possible.

“If you are on a tour run by a company, run by a business, run by a tour operator, that may be allowed,” he said.

It then encouraged Riverland businesses with questions to call a government hotline on 1300 183 046 to address “customized questions or considerations”.

Making the announcement yesterday, South Australia Premier Peter Malinauskas said the restrictions were a necessary safety precaution ahead of the spike.

“When people are at risk and our emergency services have to respond, that is a waste of those resources that might otherwise be deployed in the community,” he said.

Malinauskas said a complete ban on recreational activities on the river would also help avoid some power disconnections.

Leah Beard, who lives with her family in Taylorville, said she was surprised that her power was shut off since they live out of reach of the rising floodwaters.

She said she received a text from SA Power Networks at 9:00 pm informing her that the power to her home would be shut off the next morning until February or March of next year.

“Our power is our water, which is toilets, showers, cattle, everything, everything is gone,” Beard said.

“We were surprised because they told us our power was safe and if it was going to go out, there would be a minimum 48-hour notice, not just overnight.”

Leah Beard stands outside a house on a terrace with trees behind her
Leah Beard says power went out at her Taylorville home even though it was out of reach of the rising floodwaters. (ABC News)

Ms Beard and her family had to move to emergency accommodation 90 kilometers away, which she says made it difficult to travel back and forth to ensure their animals received enough food and water.

“We spent all day Monday raising our pump, so we figured we had years to go and still had options to keep raising that pump higher, while we would have spent the day filling tanks and getting as much water on site as we could.” , if we had had notice,” she said.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge, especially during the heat of the summer with babies and young children and trying to get water to the cattle and even the cost of diesel for the generators and gasoline for the pumps will be enormous.”

The government said it is working on how connections will be restored once the waters recede.

Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said it was a “very complicated issue.”

“We could be looking at as many as 4,000 disconnections,” he said.

“With 4,000 disconnections, that means 4,000 evaluations. And 4,000 certifications for reconnection.”

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