An open letter from Les Etheridge IWA national chairman to all waterway enthusiasts

Issue date: 5th February 2013

Dear waterway enthusiast.
 
I have been national chairman of IWA for a few months and wanted to take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts as to what I see IWA’s key priorities for waterway enthusiasts in the immediate future.
 
Some people say that IWA doesn’t represent boaters, this is simply not true. Much of the work we do benefits current and future boaters. We fully recognise the importance of navigation to the health, well being and future viability of the network.  Our work for boaters is reflected by IWA having the largest membership of boaters of any inland waterways organisation by far. In fact well over 80% of our members are boaters and put their trust in IWA to look after their waterways and campaign for them.

What is of utmost importance to me however, is the good of our wonderful inland waterways, and I want IWA to ensure that it acts unselfishly in the best interests of those waterways at all times and provides a consistent pro- navigation, pro waterways user  message in keeping with our aims and charitable objects. 

The biggest change to the waterways scene in 2012 was of course the formation of Canal & River Trust.
 
Some ask how this affects IWA.
 
As a fellow charity, Canal & River Trust has some similar, but many clearly different interests to IWA.  We have described our view of the Trust as that of the landlord and our own role at IWA as being the tenants’ association. I think that this analogy has a lot of validity in describing our respective and different roles and perspectives on issues. - It is certainly one I will base my tenure as chairman of IWA on.
 
I want IWA to always strive to be constructive and professional in our dealings with the Trust as there is no point in action which damages the reputation or image of the waterways.  However I have made it clear to the Trust that we will say when we think they are getting it wrong.

Of course we realise that Canal & River Trust only controls some of our waterways and IWA maintains a close interest in all the others. The Environment Agency remains a public body that has substantial navigation authority responsibilities and IWA continues to campaign for the inclusion of these within Canal & River Trust which has been intimated by Ministers.

In recent months IWA has campaigned on many other issues including the failure by some boaters to respect the mooring rules on the Trusts waterways, the need for greater expenditure and coverage on dredging, and the further attack on red diesel and licensing by a Dutch MEP in the European Parliament.  It has been pleasing to see support from so many areas of the waterways public and progress on all of these issues as a result of that support.
 
Unfortunately, sorting out the problems with mooring rules has been portrayed by some as an attack on continuous cruisers.  I want to assure all waterway users that this is simply not the case. IWA supports both live-aboard boaters and genuine continuous cruising throughout the system. We believe that continuous cruising brings life to the waterways network  and ensures that it remains viable, connected and open throughout the year, but we maintain that the rules must be followed by everyone and we support even handed enforcement by the relevant authorities.

If you would like to know more about what IWA believes in and stands for I would like to direct you to our web site - IWA on use.
 
You may be surprised at how much we have in common!
 
If you want to let me know your views on IWA policy or what you think we should be doing to support the waterways please let me know.  I can’t promise to respond to every message, but I do promise to read every one.  You can contact me via les.etheridge@waterways.org.uk
 
With best wishes for the new boating season,
 
Les Etheridge
IWA National Chairman