Jeff Johnson and Gabriel Salas with the Las Balsas raft.
It’s full steam ahead for the 40th anniversary celebrations of the historic Las Balsas raft’s Pacific Ocean crossing that landed in Ballina in 1973.
The Ballina Chamber of Commerce will now co-ordinate the event scheduled for November 15–17, following the recent unanimous Ballina Shire Council resolution allocating $10,000 towards the employment of an events co-ordinator/media officer, and a further $5,000 towards the costs of a civic reception.
Cr Jeff Johnson and prominent businessman, Tony Gilding, both gave the chamber their tick of approval.
‘They have experience in events management and in engaging the business community and other stakeholders,’ Mr Gilding said.
‘We are confident they will do an excellent job,’ he said.
The anniversary commemorates the landing of three rafts at Ballina on 21 November, 1973, re-enacting the epic journey by Spanish explorers in 1526.
The very basic rafts crewed by 12 adventurers had no motors or modern equipment and were built entirely from balsa wood with wooden pegs and sisal ropes for rigging. They had heavy cloth sails and minimal shelter.
Cr Johnson thanked his council colleagues for unanimously supporting the allocation of seed funding for a co-ordinator/media officer, who will not only oversee the program of events, ‘but importantly, to maximise regional and national media opportunities that will provide an economic boost for our shire’.
‘We very much look forward to making the Las Balsas 40th celebration a major success, and to increasing the number of visitors to the Ballina Naval and Maritime Museum, where the (last surviving) Las Balsas raft is located.’
Cr Johnson said he and Mr Gilding would continue to be involved in the celebration planning and would assist the chamber where needed.
‘I see this developing into an annual celebration that focuses on the river and our coastal lifestyle,’ Mr Gilding said.