Hopkins River rule change saga enters next phase as protests flood in

PROPOSED rule changes for Hopkins River estuary boat users have sparked another round of protests, with Warrnambool City Council facing a third vote to resolve the contentious issue.

A total of 39 submissions have come from individuals and groups, plus four petitions with 120 signatures.

Only eight submissions supported the changes.

The feedback will be considered by council officers and go  to councillors next month for a decision and formal proposal,  which will be submitted to Transport Safety Victoria for final approval.

Debate revolves around the morning starting time for powerboats and waterskiers in a designated zone, the boundary of the zone and the width of a transit lane between the zone and the rest of the river.

Discussions started in 2009 when the ski club applied for an extension to the zone, which triggered objections from fishing and rowing groups. 

It has been before the council table at least three times and twice for community consultation.

The most recent changes were recommended by a river users reference group in mid-2013 and approved by the council to have a starting time no earlier than 8am and no later than 8.30am until sunset for the special zone, which would be extended east to Mahoneys Road.

Some members of the reference group had suggested alternative days for powerboat and slower craft to use the early-morning access. Rowers and anglers argued they also wanted to take advantage of the still morning waters.

Transport Safety Victoria (TSV) had  suggested a 9.30am start time to accommodate different demands by users.

Last last year TSV’s maritime safety director Peter Corcoran said  the call for more submissions was to ensure the wider  community, not just a reference group or council, could comment.

“TSV will continue to work with all stakeholders to ensure the river is safer and equitable for all waterway users,”  Mr Corcoran said. 

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