‘Incredible Hulk' row

THE huge cost of removing a derelict houseboat from the Noosa River is being sought from a Curra woman who received the vessel as a gift and had never been onboard.

Queensland Transport prosecuted Judith Anne Steere this week in Gympie Magistrates Court for failing to remove the vessel from the water or restore it to a suitable condition.

The department also made an application to claim $28,000 from Steere for the cost of Maritime Safety Queensland to remove the houseboat, which was completed in March.

The engine-less and semi-sunken vessel nicknamed the ‘Incredible Hulk' had been marooned off Goat Island for nearly three years, as authorities argued over who was responsible for it.

It appeared the “dud” had been passed along and Steere was the “bunny at the end of the line” left with the liability, Magistrate Maxine Baldwin said.

“It's no different to purchasing a motor vehicle — you take it for a test drive and inspect the vehicle,” Queensland Transport Prosecutor Mandy Nixon said.

“Not if you were gifted it,” Mrs Baldwin responded.

In Steere's defence, lawyer Matthew Post said his client trusted the former owners because they were good friends.

“The water surrounding ownership of the vessel is significantly muddy – to use colloquialism,' he said. “$28,000 is a severe amount of money for my client.”

Mrs Baldwin interjected to speak with Ms Nixon: “This houseboat was under your eye and unseaworthy before Miss Steere got it. The Department failed to take action against the (former owners) before the vessel came into her possession. I really loathe to sheet it all on to her.”

Ms Nixon said the houseboat wasn't in danger of obstructing navigation until it started to deteriorate later on, however the court heard Steere inherited a $50,000 repair bill when she was given it.

Mrs Baldwin appeared puzzled by the matter of restitution and asked Ms Nixon if ownership of the vessel was pinned on Steere. “When you contacted her she could have said I was given it and now I give it to you Ms Nixon,” she said.

“That may well have been, but I don't know if I would have accepted it Your Honour,” Ms Nixon replied.

For charges of failing to comply with a shipping inspector direction in relation to an unseaworthy vessel and for not complying with a harbour master's direction to remove the vessel from the water, Steere was fined $800.

The matter of restitution was adjourned to September 16 for a decision to be made by Crown Law.

Gympie Times

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