Work is hoped to start this year on resurfacing Warrnambool's breakwater boat ramp and building two new jetties, kick-starting a long-awaited redevelopment.
Better Boating Victoria acting chief executive officer Katherine Grech said she met Warrnambool City Council officers and stakeholders during a visit to the city last week.
She said Warrnambool had enormous potential as a boating hot spot and plans to resurface the ramp and build the jetties was the first of what was expected to be three development stages.
The acting CEO said plans were progressing with the council to combat wave surge, the development of a third lane to the boat ramp and address car parking issues in the future.
Ms Grech said she was also involved in talks with government officials about addressing long-term issues concerning the maintenance and plan for the breakwater wall.
"We want this to be turned into a gold class facility. The ramp and jetties are the starting point," she said.
"The first stage will not address all the issues but it is a starting point and I expect there will be a number of stages.
"Not everyone will be happy but the ramp and jetties are the first things that have to happen."
In 2019, the boat ramp was given the title of "the worst in the state", and in October last year a damning report into its condition labelled it "unsafe" and a "liability risk".
Better Boating Victoria would like to keep the existing boat ramp, resurface it and build two new jetties to the north and south, while the wave surge options are progressed.
It is understood plans for much of the works have already been done as part of a complete rebuild proposal.
Long-time Warrnambool Harbour Reference group member Rodney Blake said works would provide the city with a modern facility.
However, he said the first stage of works would not address issues of sea surge up the boat ramp.
Mr Blake said local fishermen were aware of that issue but visitors could be caught out.
He said only a spur off the eastern end of the breakwater would counter the surge issue.
"The current facility is dilapidated and falling apart," he said.
"It's now up to the council to decide what they want, get approvals and my understanding is that there is money available through Better Boating Victoria."
My Blake had a video conference call with Ms Grech and Marcus Higgins from Better Boating Victoria last week.
"The onus is now on council to decide what they want, to get their ducks in line and get organised," Mr Blake said.
The group member said he expected the works would run into millions of dollars.
"I've got high hopes and Better Boating Victoria certainly has my 100 per cent support," he said.
"They are prepared to take a step in the right direction, something looks like it might actually be done.
"Collectively we've spent more than $1 million over the years and very little has been done. There was $700,000 in 2019 on consultants.
"The bollards get painted and there's now a skip bin, but while Portland facilities have had millions spent over there for recreational fishing we've got about 25 cents."
Mr Blake said the proposed works would have a very good chance of getting funding through BBV, with fees paid by recreational fishermen being put back into facilities.
He said it was a tragedy the south-west's largest city had been ignored while up to 400 boats a day headed to Portland chasing tuna.
"If we can eventually tap into that market we are talking about huge tourist dollars, particularly in the current environment when we are all completely dependent on domestic tourism due to COVID," he said.
"We already have the accommodation facilities, we're on the western end of the Great Ocean Road and we're not just talking about hosting a few fishermen but those interested in fishing and their families."
Ms Grech said she was working with the council to make some changes to the previous design options.
"We will continue to work with the council. We do have some funding available and the discussions we've had so far have been very positive," she said.
"The progress of construction depends on a whole sequence but I would like to see progress this year.
"The solution to address wave surge is not landed, locked in, but that can be further considered while the first stage can progress."
The city council's new infrastructure director David Leahy said last week's meeting was a step in the right direction.
"And it's positive that we are able to meet again later this month," he said.
"Council will be providing the various concepts for improvements to Better Boating Victoria by the end of this week so that they can be discussed in greater detail at the end of January.
"This will be followed up with a reference group meeting in February.
"We are encouraged that Better Boating Victoria is showing an interest in investing in the harbour precinct."
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