It’s last roll of the dice for steamer

ALBURY mayor Kevin Mack has conceded the Cumberoona paddlesteamer is entering a make or break phase of its existence.

Trying to find someone to run the boat next summer is “the last roll of the dice”, he said yesterday.

The council is seeking expressions of interest from suitably qualified operators and is targeting other Murray River centres, Echuca and Mildura, in the search.

The successful party will be offered a three-year lease with an option to extend by two years.

Cr Mack said the search would hopefully flush out a suitably qualified paddlesteamer operator, who also had experience in the tourism industry.

But he said the council also had to prepare itself for the possibility of an operator not being found.

“We’ve got it repaired and we are now sounding out the marketplace,” Cr Mack said.

“The worst case scenario is we don’t get any satisfactory applicants and we then move to stage two.

“Stage two I suppose is what we do with it.

“We have to progress these things and they have been a legacy of previous councils for the last 10 years.

“It is fair to say this is probably the last roll of the dice.”

The Cumberoona last operated just before Christmas 2006, due to low river levels, and was then taken ashore.

Subsequently, 90 per cent of its hull has been replaced and works carried out to help prevent future corrosion.

The council has continued maintenance work, including repairing floorboards and stairs, sealing leaks and holes.

The Cumberoona has cost the council more than $2 million over 20 years and has never returned a profit when operational.

“It hasn’t been a great business venture,” Cr Mack said.

“This is the starting point and if there are any operators interested in running it as a going concern we will do what we can to assist them.

“But we need to know what the business plan looks like.”

Expressions of interest will be done in two stages with initial submissions shortlisted before going on to the next stage.

Submissions close on March 4.

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