WHAT WENT WRONG?

Lo­cals lament loss of Air­lie Aqua Park as owner takes wa­ter play­ground south

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - Inge Hansen Inge.Hansen @whit­sun­day­times.com.au

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.”

PHOTO: INGE HANSEN

TORN APART: Zara Braun, Jasper Braun, Kobe Ford, Peta Braun and Aqua Park owner Ja­son Ford at Boathaven Beach.

PHOTO: INGE HANSEN

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.

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