A NEW ZEALAND-based whale watch company is a step closer to establishing a branch in Portland after negotiating an extended licence with the Department of Environment and Primary Industries. Whale Watch, based in Kaikoura, New Zealand and the Gold Coast, applied to DEPI for a 10-year Marine Mammal Tour Permit in 2011 but was offered only two years by the department. David Robertson, Australian manager of Whale Watch, said thanks to lobbying by Premier Denis Napthine and Glenelg Shire Council, an extended contract has now been negotiated, allowing the tour operators to proceed. “Everything that needs to be in place is in place and that’s what the Premier and local council has helped us out with, they’ve convinced the (DEPI) this is a good thing … it’s just a balance of risk, it’s a very risky investment,” Mr Robertson said. Read more in Monday’s Observer.