THE issue of what best to do with Warrnambool’s harbour is one that seems to have dragged on interminably.
The fact is there have been calls for an upgrade of the harbour for more than two decades. Over that time, The Standard reported almost a dozen studies had been compiled, canvassing sea walls, marinas and boat ramps.
In summary, where we are at now is that Warrnambool City Council has a harbour masterplan in place that aims to replace the boat ramp and upgrade amenities such as car parking, walkways and toilets as well as a user-pays system for its upkeep. The plan, built around a public survey, has met with muted approval from some and frustration from the proponents of an enclosed harbour.
Council says it currently has two priorities: safer boating facilities and ensuring the structural integrity of the breakwater.
But it has to be said that of the nearly 600 public submissions to the council’s draft master plan, more than 500 supported an enclosed harbour.
Perhaps as simply recognition of the fact and also a longer-standing push from recreational fishermen and other users for the enclosed harbour, the state government has allocated $300,000 to council for a coastal processes study to better understand how coastal erosion can be mitigated and managed and the development of a preliminary business case and economic study framework for any future investment. The last sand study on the harbour was completed in 2008 and is now out of date.
Most of the voices in the debate agree this is a necessary step. Any case for an enclosed harbour must be supported by meaningful environmental studies and then a business case for government funding, should that be required.
While consensus is missing and some voices are keen to trawl the dim past to wage war and settle old scores, what is clear is that massive injections of government money for non-existent or half-baked plans either now or at any stage of the 20-year back-and-forth debate would be a waste of taxpayers’ money.