29 October 2023

Icons of Lake Burley Griffin reach 'end of their operational life'

| James Coleman
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two people on a pink paddleboat

Paddle boats on Lake Burley Griffin. Photo: Capital Paddle.

They’ve been a peak Canberra experience for decades, but the paddle boats on Lake Burley Griffin have finally paddled their last.

The National Capital Authority (NCA) has announced the boats have “reached the end of their operational life and have been discontinued”.

“The NCA is exploring options to showcase the boats as a treasured part of Canberra’s history and heritage and will provide more information in due course,” CEO Sally Barnes said.

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The current fleet of boats arrived in the 1980s but sat dormant from 2014 until 2019, until the founder of GoBoat Canberra, Nick Tyrrell, approached the NCA with a plan to bring them back to life, so Capital Paddle was born.

“Getting the boats back out onto the water was a massive undertaking,” Nick recalls.

“We were certainly up for the challenge because we knew the experience it would afford locals and visitors would be worth it.”

New parts were sourced, the boats refurbished from the bottom up, and sure enough, the crowds returned.

two people in a boat being followed by a paddle boat

GoBoat founder Nick Tyrrell and GoBoat Canberra business manager Amy Weatherby. Photo: Nick Tyrrell.

“There were lines of people waiting to go out on one every hot summer day,” Nick says.

“The paddle boats have successfully brought thousands of people back to the lake, and for some, it was a chance to relive their childhood memories and create new ones with their families.”

But every year since, finding replacement parts for the boats has become a tougher task.

“The paddle boats are around a half-century old, and while we recognise there is a lot of nostalgia attached to them, it is no longer viable to continue operating them in a safe and sustainable way,” Nick says.

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Meanwhile, GoBoat Canberra, launched in 2017 with a fleet of eight electric-powered picnic boats at the Kingston Foreshore, has since more than doubled in size and opened a second location near Queen Elizabeth Terrace.

Nick says this remains a joint commitment with the NCA to make sure the lake remains fun and accessible.

“I am passionate about helping people create affordable and accessible lifelong memories on our lake,” he says.

“Even though the NCA is retiring the old paddle boats, there are still plenty of opportunities for people to get on the lake, and I encourage people to come and check out what’s on offer.”

The paddle boats will not be available for hire this season while the NCA decides how to preserve them as part of Canberra’s history.

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Here is my email to the NCA
Come on Community, perhaps a Paddle Boats Club could work
” Pedalling For All Tomorrows “; People Power

” Dear Sirs/Madames

It is with some dismay that l have read of the NCA decision that the LBGPBs are to become Boats out of water !

With the focal point that LBG is , the Paddle Boats are very much part of the lifestyle that is possible.
People being able to keep themselves healthier through relatively low stressing aerobic exercise burning only their own human fuel.

How much more environmentally friendly and Green can an activity be ?

Surely the opportunity ought to be given for community groups and/or another commercial organisation to pursue the continuation of the Paddle Boats.

I myself am an engineer and the technology of the Paddle Boats is about as simple as a bicycle.
Replacement parts can be easily made.

It is a great opportunity for Peoples’ Sheds, involving TAFE and having young people learn some practical skills.

The NCA should put the continued operation of the Paddle Boats out to tender.

I hope l can read about this happening.


Greg North “

Such a great shame and how much more environmentally friendly Green can you get ?
As an engineer, it’s not as though they are a tunnel boring machine and maintenance could be a great opportunity for a Men’s ( well peoples’ ) shed, perhaps even involving TAFE and training opportunities for young people to learn some skills including a naval aspect.

And then there’s the healthy lifestyle aspect, we hearing all too often of how lives get affected by sedentary lifestyles with a lack of activities.
The Pedal boats should remain.

We should all write to the NCA and l sure will.

Greg North

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