Dozens of families across the Moreton Bay Region say they’ve been left high and dry after the owner of a Redcliffe water attraction withdrew from a tender process to keep operating.
Mum-of-three Katie Meredith says she was frustrated after discovering Aqua Splash - which had run a poplar on-water obstacle course at Clontarf - no longer ran the business, with new company Aqua Warrior winning the contract to run a new course for three years from September 30.
Katie says she bought annual passes for her children three weeks before the Aqua Splash-run season ended – and convinced her friends to buy passes too.
“We paid $360 for three children and one only got to go once,” Katie says.
“We thought we had a whole summer of Aqua Splash – a season pass would have represented quite good value for money, but now its worthless.
“I know of at least 20 families (stuck with passes they cannot use) and then you have people who bought vouchers and certificates.
“I feel sorry for the new (operator) because everyone’s going to be calling them.”
Crippled by weather
Aqua Splash owner Matt Devine says he had every intention of honouring the passes when they were issued, but three seasons of dire weather, ranging from bushfires to floods and storms, coupled with COVID, had brought the business to its knees.
“When we sold those season passes, we had every intent of returning,” Matt says.
“We submitted a tender and we were happy to come back.
“In regards to the tender process, Moreton Bay Regional Council required information we were unable to provide because we were in a dire position.
“They were probably concerned about if I was financially viable, so I withdrew my tender.”
Matt says Aqua Splash operated at Clontarf for four years, with the contract ending on June 30.
He says the first season was a huge success, but three years of horrific weather, coupled with COVID restrictions hammering tourist numbers, crippled the business.
“We were a strong company which had traded for nearly 10 years before that - it brought us to our knees.
“The person who got the tender worked with me at the end of last year and I would implore…him to honour those passes.
“If the roles were reversed, I would have honoured them, no problem.
“Those people that have those passes, I obviously feel for them – I was not expecting him not to honour them.”
Matt concedes that’s not a discussion he had with Craig Rosevear and Saadah Ismail from Aqua Warrior, who have a three-year contract with Council.
“In the big scheme of things, when you’re going broke and you’re losing your house and you’re falling apart, it’s low on your list.”
Drop in income
Matt, who’s now working seven nights a week in security to make ends meet, says one pontoon sunk completely, costing $20,000 to set up again, and the damage and the weather forced him to close for up to 80 percent of the last season.
“There was one day when that rain bomb hit and a 24-hour period when there was one metre of rain.
“It was a combination of factors that took a wholesome family-owned business and brought it to its knees.”
Getting ready to open
Craig says he and Saadah are working around the clock on opening Aqua Warrior on December 3 and he’s not in a position to consider honouring the Aqua Splash passes.
“I am so busy, I don’t have time to look at it in any constructive way,” Craig says.
“Unfortunately, for me the focus is to get ready for trading on the third (of December) and then worry about what comes.
“We have got something that we were thinking of (to help patrons with Aqua Splash passes) but again my focus is on getting ready to open.”
A Moreton Bay Regional Council spokesman says the tender was evaluated in accordance with predetermined criteria and Aqua Warrior submitted a proposal determined to represent the most favourable outcome for the Moreton Bay Region.
The spokesman says the passes are a commercial matter for the vendor, not Council.
The Office of Fair Trading website says gift cards may not be honoured if a business changes to new owners or goes into administration, receivership or liquidation.
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