Contribution of Superyachts to the Gold Coast Economy

3 Jun | '2021

It gives me great pleasure to rise on the Special Recreational Vessels Amendment Bill 2021. This is an industry that is so important on the Gold Coast, and it is one that has been going through the COVID-19 pandemic.

This bill will amend the Special Recreational Vessels Act 2019. ‘Special recreational vessels’ is the term that the Commonwealth legislation uses to refer to, simply, superyachts. In Australia, the relevant peak industry bodies are the Australian International Marine Export Group, AIMEX, and Superyacht Australia. The industry considers superyachts to be vessels more than 24 metres long with a capacity of less than 12 overnight passengers, excluding crew.

The act reflects the industry definition:

special recreational vessel means a vessel that:

(a) is designed to be used wholly or primarily for recreational or sporting activities; and

(b) is over 24 metres in length; and

(c) is not used wholly or primarily for carrying cargo.

These are, clearly, recreational vessels. The bill will simply extend the operation of the act. Section 17 of the act will be amended by omitting ’30 June 2021′ and substituting ’30 June 2023′. These are the technicalities of the act, but I will speak later about my community and, if I might say so, my beloved Gold Coast. The act currently permits superyachts to opt into the coastal trading regulatory regime. This permits vessels to be offered for hire or for charter in Australian waters. Prior to the passage of the Special Recreational Vessels Act, vessels were not permitted to obtain temporary licenses under the coastal trading act of 2012. This created a major disincentive for superyachts to visit Australia, because the vessels were subject to importation duty and taxes under the Customs Act. There are significant economic benefits of superyacht activity in Australia, particularly at a time when, as a nation we are working towards sustainable recovery. I agree with the sentiments of my colleague, the member for Forde, on superyachts and their benefits to the local economy, which I’ll speak about more in a moment. The government recognises that longer term regulatory arrangements are necessary for all stakeholders. To ensure we achieve the right regulatory settings, industry consultation will also be required. In the meantime, this bill will ensure that the benefits of superyachts will continue to flow to the economy.

The Gold Coast is one of the locations benefiting from this industry with a very bright future. The Australian International Marine Export Group uses various metrics to assess the economic benefits of superyachts. I will just outline a few of those metrics. In terms of metres and days, it takes into account the length of yachts and the time they stay in Australia. On that basis, the current annual growth is a staggering 58 per cent, thanks to the Morrison government and this legislation. Superyachts are conservatively valued at about $1 million per metre, and spent 10 per cent of that value per year. So a 60 metre yacht is probably valued in excess of $60 million and delivers at least $600,000 per annum in economic value to the local economy, if staying for 365 days. And a lot of people on superyachts would like to stay on the Gold Coast for 365 days, I can assure you, Mr Deputy Speaker! Southport Yacht Club is there, and with the beautiful sunshine on the flat water it is terribly and stunningly attractive. But of course the economic activity generated goes well beyond the direct spending by the crew and the passengers, as outlined by the member for Forde.

The current act has delivered a dramatic increase in superyacht activity for Australia. In calendar years, it went from around $40 million in 2018 to $100 million 2020. That additional 150 per cent in economic benefit has been despite the pandemic. It’s been, of course, more difficult for crew and passengers of yachts to travel to Australia, although they had been staying longer once here. AIMEX estimates that once they’ve had 12 months of operation clear of the pandemic impacts, they would expect the current arrangements that the bill extends to produce a 300 per cent increase on 2018 levels, which is quite staggering.

I have supported the good work by the previous Minister for Home Affairs to deliver a Border Force clearing station in Moncrieff to support the utilisation of Southport by superyachts. This is good news for the local economy. Moncrieff is a significant beneficiary of this industry and, certainly, this bill. The Southport Yacht Club has embarked on a project to build a 136-metre superyacht berth to increase the length and number of vessels able to berth on the coast. The new berth could accommodate a yacht the full size of the berth or two 60-metre yachts, which is something very special to see at Southport Yacht Club. Of course, there must be seaway access also, and Marine Safety Queensland is currently assessing the seaway access, potentially giving access to vessels up to 100 metres in length. They certainly are a sight to see in the seaway. The new berth construction has faced a few minor delays, with some bad weather earlier this year on the Gold Coast—unusual for the Gold Coast’s usually sunny, clear skies. It’s likely to be completed by August this year, which is good news. The Southport Yacht Club is doing very well in general, with record numbers through its restaurant and excellent membership numbers. I’ll give a shout-out to Brett James, the general manager there, and the commodore, Ken, who’s a fantastic fellow and always in good spirits.

For every superyacht that berths on the Gold Coast, there are significant benefits to the local economy, including the purchase of fuel; food and drink supplies; tourist activities, which are so important to the Gold Coast; and other services. But the economic benefits for the Gold Coast of a vibrant superyacht industry go well beyond berthing vessels and purchases by passengers and crew. The Gold Coast is also home to the construction and servicing of a great range of marine vessels. All aspects of the superyacht industry contribute to the marketing position of the Gold Coast as both a world-class international destination and a world-class marine business investment opportunity, and we welcome that.

In Coomera, a short distance up the road from Moncrief, employing many of my constituents are a great number of marine businesses of various sizes, adding to the Gold Coast economy. A good example is Riviera, a very successful luxury motor yacht builder. Allow me to share a few details about Riviera that will allow those listening to understand the importance of the marine industry, now and into the future. Riviera has been operating for 41 years. They have the largest luxury yacht building facility in the Southern Hemisphere, on a 16.8 hectare site at Coomera, in the member for Fadden’s electorate. They employ a team of 800. They have built over 5,700 luxury motor yachts, and they export about 55 per cent of their annual yacht production. Their yachts range in length from 39 to 78 feet, which is quite significant.

Another business at the marine precinct at Coomera employing many people from my electorate is the Boat Works, which the member for Forde also spoke about. It’s home to an impressive array of marine trades, through the many businesses that operate out of that facility. About 2,000 people are employed. That’s 2,000 people, from just one business, who are employed and looked after thanks to the marine industry on the Gold Coast, which is such an incredible contributor to our local economy. The Boat Works invested $100 million in 2019 to upgrade their facilities and a further $20 million this year to meet the significant demand that they are facing now, in such a rapid growth trajectory. They have the facilities to store boats of up to 60 metres, and they have 300-, 100- and 70-tonne marine lifts to handle boats of up to 50 metres in length and 32 feet beam—that’s width, for those that aren’t familiar with the term. They also have a unique 45-tonne hydraulic submersible sea lift. It’s quite a sight.

Next door is another great facility. The Gold Coast City Marina & Shipyard is another great Gold Coast business success story with a global reputation. Recently announced as a finalist for the Best Superyacht Refit Yard Award at the 2021 ACREW Superyacht Business Awards, voted on by 15,000 captains and crew. It’s a very special award. The GCCM is no stranger to accolades, having received many other awards in the past.

All of these businesses and the many other marine businesses on the Gold Coast are providing thousands of local jobs and training apprentices for their careers. Industry and governments agree on the importance of regulatory reform for the industry. However, the complexities of foreign superyachts operating in Australia are not immediately obvious. When you delve further, the issues include the application import of duty and GST that need to be looked at as well. Expecting operators to pay 10 per cent of the value of a vessel is, of course, a significant disincentive to operate in Australia.

This bill is the Morrison government backing the marine industry through and beyond the pandemic and is very, very good policy. To finish, I know that the member for Forde and the member for Fadden will agree that the amendment to this 2019 legislation has created the important opportunity for local businesses, like those of the Longhurst brothers, to invest in local industry with certainty to create economic security for jobs for South-East Queenslanders and, most importantly, to create those jobs for those constituents who live in Moncrieff and across the wider Gold Coast. I commend the amendment in this bill to the House.

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