By ESTHER MACINTYRE

It’s full steam ahead for the local tourism industry this week, with the announcement that Victorians can use the mighty Murray River without a permit.

Local Victorians have been missing out on school holiday highlights like paddle steamer cruises and house boat stays, under restrictions meaning only NSW residents are allowed on board

Mildura Paddlesteamers marketing manager Ashton Kreuzer is chuffed with this development, saying it will save her family’s business.

“Oh, it’s very welcome (news). I’m just stunned,” Ms Kreuzer said.

“Monday night’s adrenaline rush just went all night and I think I slept the best sleep that I have in months, knowing that we can keep the business by opening up now to regional Victorians,” she said.

It’s been about six months off the water for the fleet of three paddle vessels, with lots of maintenance work carried out, particularly during the first lockdown.

“The paddle steamer Melbourne and the paddle vessel Mundoo have not operated since March 23. The Rothbury operated for one month between June 7 and July 8.

The team is taking bookings now, and planning a special celebration cruise for this Friday, October 2.

“Within two hours of my Facebook post going up on Monday night saying we’re open to regional Victoria, I had 18 people book on and I was still getting phone calls at 9.30pm,” Ms Kreuzer said.

“Which was great. They were surprised that I answered, but again, that adrenaline rush just kicked in, that “Oh my gosh this is actually happening now, we’ve done it.”

Restrictions are still in place meaning a maximum of 40 passengers on board, and some NSW cruises not operating.

“We’re not allowed to operate our Gol Gol cruise or our Trentham Estate Winery cruise, because we’re not allowed to disembark passengers onto the NSW bank,” Ms Kreuzer said.