End of Fraser barge era
A BIG part of the Rainbow Beach economy changed hands recently, with the sale of the “white barge” Fraser Explorer operation to its competitor, which operates the green Manta Ray barges.
It is understood a Fraser Explorer barge will continue to operate from Hervey Bay, but its most recently acquired vessel may soon be a new colour and will be part of the Manta Ray fleet.
Some observers this week speculated that the new single operator scenario at Rainbow Beach might eliminate competition, except between Rainbow Beach and Hervey Bay, both of which make a big part of their economy out of being gateways to Fraser Island.
Any big barge fare rises at Rainbow Beach would now tend to drive consumers elsewhere, with nowhere for them to go except Hervey Bay.
One new development is that discounts once offered for regular users and island workers may now only be available to people able to produce a rates notice or other proof that they have property on the island or live there.
It is understood some barge staff have been offered jobs with Manta Ray, while some others will remain with their current employer, but will probably have to be based at Hervey Bay.
Ex-senior white barges skipper Neil Grono was among those at a “wake” for the former white barge operation at the Rainbow Beach Sport and Recreation Club.
He thanked all the business’s customers and formally advised them that “this service facility has now ceased operation”.
There was no hiding his sadness as he made the announcement and spoke about it later, but said the reality of the situation was that things were now subject to a new situation.
“Unfortunately the circumstances of this decision were beyond my control.
“The crew and I would like to extend you our sincere thanks and gratitude for your loyal patronage over the years,” he said.
“It has been a pleasure and a wonderful experience in the course of operating this venture to have met and worked with you,” he told ex-customers.