Centenary lake stand-off means no pirates at the party
Pirate boat owner, John Arganese. Photo: Melissa Adams
A boat operator claims the ACT government has forbidden him from running his Lake Burley Griffin charter business on the day of Canberra's centenary holiday next March.
John Arganese, who owns the Pirate Party Boat, says he stands to lose $8000 in bookings on that day because he is not allowed to charter his boat during the March 11 centenary event.
But the government and National Capital Authority (NCA) say Mr Arganese is only forbidden from sailing in the central basin because it is closed on that day for safety reasons to any boats not involved in the official centenary events. Charters will still be allowed to sail in the western and eastern basins.
The Centenary of Canberra said it had also agreed two months ago to hire Mr Arganese's boat to transport roving musical entertainment during the celebrations, but the deal collapsed when the business operator in return demanded a ''significantly'' higher fee.
Mr Arganese denied he had asked for more money and said he had simply been told his services were not required.
''We decided on a fee at the beginning, then I didn't hear from them and they came back and said we don't want your services,'' he said.
''They said 'we won't need your services and we're going to stop you from operating on the basin that day'.
''I've got 10 groups of people that want the boat and they've paid to book it and I could make $8000 for that day and night.''
Mr Arganese said sailing only in the western and eastern basins was not a suitable business option on the centenary holiday and criticised the NCA for agreeing to close the central basin to other vessels.
''People aren't going to hire the boat if they can't go into the central basin,'' he said.
Centenary of Canberra executive director Jeremy Lasek said all other cruise operators on the lake had agreed to play a role in the centenary event. Lake Burley Griffin Boat Hire and Segway operators Seg Glide Ride also told The Canberra Times they were happy with the arrangements for the day.
Mr Lasek said Mr Arganese had originally agreed in writing to a $2600 fee to transport entertainment on the day, but later made a verbal request that it be increased to $3500-3700.
An alternative offer to Mr Arganese to act as a ferry on the day instead of transporting entertainment was refused by the business owner.
''The door remains open if we can agree a fee and we'd be very happy to accommodate him,'' Mr Lasek said.
''Every other boat on the lake seems happy and it would be a shame for one to miss out.''
Mr Lasek said closing the central basin to other vessels was purely a safety decision.
''In collaboration with water police and others, we need to be able to control what's happening on the lake because there'll be fireworks and things like that happening,'' he said.
''We're expecting 100,000 to 200,000 people and we want this to be a very safe event.''
A spokeswoman for the NCA said the authority agreed the closure of the basin was necessary.
''Operators are given a licence to use the lake but they're not given exclusivity,'' she said.
''It doesn't entitle him [Mr Arganese] to access to all areas of the lake on every day of the year.''