WHAT WENT WRONG?
Locals lament loss of Airlie Aqua Park as owner takes water playground south
IT WAS a tough decision for Jason Ford to make and he made it with a heavy heart.
On Saturday, the local of 14 years left Airlie Beach and moved to the Gold Coast, where he will finally be able to operate his aqua park after tireless efforts to open in Airlie left him stranded.
“I bought a half-share of Aqua Splash (an aqua park on the Gold Coast) and so I’ll be transporting my park down to that site and I’ll be joining it with their existing park to make a super park,” he said.
“Obviously my first priority was to remain here because my family lives here and essentially this is going to split my family up.”
Mr Ford will take his son with him to the Gold Coast while partner Peta Braun and her two children will remain in Airlie Beach.
“I’ll spend seven months down there and then I’ll come home for five months – it disrupts everything,” he said.
In July last year, Mr Ford was forced to close his Airlie Aqua Park on Boathaven Beach when nearby landowners complained about their loss of amenity and views and threatened to take him to court.
Despite receiving approval from the council and being backed heavily by the community, Mr Ford – who likened himself to the protagonist in The Castle – was informed the process undertaken was incorrect and surrendered when he realised he couldn’t win the fight.
Nonetheless, Mr Ford said the Whitsundays hadn’t seen the last of him, with plans to return once a location had been secured in Airlie Beach – “hopefully next year”.
Mayor Andrew Willcox said Whitsunday Regional Council had not given up on the aqua park but claimed the process was “out of our hands”.
“What we’ve done is found a site that was suitable to them and we’re now chasing a wet lease so the park can operate just off Broadwater Beach,” he said.
“Because it’s going on state land we’ve got to go through a process and it’s taking longer than I’d like. Every couple of weeks we check with the state to find out where that’s at.
“All of council supported it and we’re disappointed this is happening.”
TORN APART: Zara Braun, Jasper Braun, Kobe Ford, Peta Braun and Aqua Park owner Jason Ford at Boathaven Beach.
TORN APART: Peta Braun, Zara Braun, Jason Ford, Kobe Ford and Jasper Braun at the original Aqua Park location on Boathaven Beach and, inset, the beginning of Jason Ford’s Aqua Park legal battle in 2015.