AFTER years of debate on Warrnambool’s Lady Bay boat facilities and siltation, a further $300,000 will be spent on producing a masterplan to determine what improvements should be done.
Premier and South West Coast MP Denis Napthine yesterday announced a $240,000 grant, while the city council will contribute $60,000 for more investigations — in the wake of at least three other studies in the past decade.
However, this plan will be broader than preceding studies and consider the whole precinct covering the breakwater, boat ramp, car park and disused former aquarium.
It is another indication that despite years of criticism about boat launching and mooring, authorities are nervous about jumping in deep with major alterations for fear of environmental consequences.
According to Dr Napthine and Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh, the masterplan will produce a definitive long-term answer, but anglers and boating enthusiasts are sceptical after years of campaigning, consultations and short-term dredging.
Two advisory committees will be formed — one for technical aspects and another for community input — before expert consultants are engaged to produce a blueprint.
Data from two previously commissioned scientific studies, surveys by Deakin University and a detailed options report completed only two years ago will be taken into account.
“Today marks the next step in planning for the future of the broader Lady Bay area, on land and at sea, to meet the needs of local fishers while providing opportunities for increased tourism and improved recreation,” Dr Napthine said.
“It is important the boat ramp is upgraded, tidal surge is addressed and a direction provided for the old aquarium and broader area to ensure Lady Bay lives up to its potential.
“But there is also a great challenge in making sure we protect what we already have — that we don’t destroy the environment.
“This masterplan will be a blueprint from which state government can determine funding priorities. We need to make sure it is spent on producing a positive and not a negative.”
Warrnambool mayor Michael Neoh also said it was crucial to weigh up the pros and cons of changing bay infrastructure to avoid long-term environmental repercussions.
“There’s a perception in the community that the boat ramp is dangerous,” he said. “Of course we could close off the bay, but if you can’t get out to the back of the breakwater because of rough seas, what’s the purpose? We need to determine all the pros and cons.”
Two key members of the Warrnambool Offshore and Light Game Fishing Club expressed frustration with the announcement of yet another study.
Bruce Ludeman and Neville Dance said it seemed like numerous consultations with user groups, studies and suggestions had come to nought.
“It looks like all the money and time spent so far has been wasted and we are going to go over the same issues again,” Mr Ludeman said.
Mr Dance said boating facilities had been a main concern of the club since it formed in 1978.
“It’s very frustrating and disappointing we haven’t seen much progression,” he said. City infrastructure director Peter Robertson said the council had to follow advice from the Lady Bay port owner, the Department of Transport, Planning and Local Infrastructure, in meeting an extensive list of criteria necessary to gain approval for significant upgrading of facilities.