Lengthy wait for harbour upgrade

BOATING enthusiasts and anglers are likely to have to wait at least another four years for a decision on a major upgrade of Warrnambool’s harbour launching facilities.

Despite strong community support for two $6 million marina options proposed earlier this year in a consultant’s report, city councillors are nervous about giving a green light without more studies and consultation with government departments.

As the busy summer tourism season approaches, city councillors unanimously decided recently to seek clarification from the Department of Transport on what further studies were needed.

Councillors expressed in-principle support for a   harbour upgrade, but cautioned about rushing in and causing further degradation to  Lady Bay.

They said they were aware of  lost tourism revenue with boaters bypassing Warrnambool for better facilities at Portland and Port Fairy, but were also conscious of environmental risks.

Councillor Jacinta Ermacora said she would be surprised if a final decision on the project   was made in this council term.

“I don’t think there needs to be budgeting priority yet. I suspect we’ll have our  new joint-library project first,”  she said.

“Surely we’ve profoundly changed our bay already, with shifting the Merri mouth, construction of the breakwater, altering the viaduct and enlarging the sand dune between McGennan and the surf club.”

Mayor Michael Neoh said there would always be cause and effect with building in the bay. “We won’t be able to change the Southern Ocean — it will change us,” he said.

“There is a will by council, but we can’t rush it. If there’s $6 million in funding sitting out  there, come and see us.”

Cr Peter Hulin warned that if the council did not get the project right it would end up costing much more. “You play with the environment at your peril,”  he said.

“I don’t want to be responsible for building something that will be a financial millstone around ratepayers’ necks.”

Cr Kylie Gaston said the broader community needed to be consulted and environmental issues considered.

“Mother Nature has her way — proceed very carefully,” she said.

Cr Peter Sycopoulis said there may be other options to consider, including opening up the viaduct again. He too cautioned about rushing a decision.

Cr Rob Askew, who was the previous council’s representative on the safer boating and harbour reference group, said discussions must include the Department of Transport which controlled the harbour.

“We need to continue to keep this issue moving and not put it on the shelf,”  he said.

“The Warrnambool beach will always need dredging because of the build-up of sand.” 

Cr Brian Kelson said he wanted to support boaters with safer facilities and put something in place to stop the exodus of money and goodwill going to Port Fairy and Portland.

He suggested an on-site meeting with councillors and older residents familiar with the bay environment.

pcollins@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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