MOYNE Shire will take over management of the Port Fairy Yacht Club facilities, putting an end to "five years of uncertainty" for the club and marine rescue service.
Councillors voted that the Port Fairy Yacht Club and Port Fairy Marine Rescue Service would sign separate licence agreements after a 21-year lease for the Griffiths Street crown land expired in 2015.
There were 46 public submissions to the proposal, with 35 in support of a lease.
The new licence will be cheaper for the club compared with a lease, but means the council will manage the site and receive the income the yacht club currently earns from hiring the venue for weddings and community events, totalling more than $8000 a year.
The marine rescue service shares the site with the yacht club and coordinator Russell Lemke welcomed the decision.
"I think it was the correct decision," he said. "Marine rescue has been under a sub-lease under the yacht club, which put us in a position where we could not get NBN connected which is a vital part of our communications system.
"We had no legal tenure to get NBN and that's been holding us back.
"The licence agreement puts the yacht club and marine rescue on equal footing and gives us equal rights on the same property, which overcomes all those issues we previously faced with the sublease situation.
"It's going to be much easier to operate."
Between January and April this year the marine rescue service carried out 12 rescues, saving 27 people and putting in more than 1357 volunteer hours.
"Everything is going to be the same as it's been before, it's just going to be a fairer situation," Mr Lemke said.
"I can't see any drawbacks whatsoever, I can see more positives than negatives in going for a licence over a lease.
"This to us is the most logical option and of the most benefit to the community, there's been a lot of scaremongering."
Six councillors supported the licence option despite community opposition, saying it would give greater autonomy to the marine rescue service.
"I move to go with the licence agreement because I think there's better protocols in place for the marine rescue and better control for Moyne Shire," said Cr Jim Doukas.
"It's in everyone's best interest; for the club, the people of Port Fairy and the wider community, it would be best if we went for a licence agreement."
The yacht club's popularity boomed over the summer, with membership climbing from 50 to 250.
Cr Damian Gleeson said the marine rescue needed sole use of the shed, which was currently overcrowded.
"From my point of view I see the marine rescue as the SES of the sea and I can't undersell the importance of them having their own autonomy," he said.
"They need to be given a licence so they are their own entity and need sole use of their shed.
"This has caused a great deal of divide, with a lot of untruths and I'm sure there will be noise after this decision is made."
The length of the licences are yet to be negotiated.
Cr Karen Foster said the community would still have access to the facilities.
"As council we're the committee of management, we don't own the building, we have an obligation to ensure the facility is managed for the benefit of the entire community.
"This is contentious and I think a lot of us have lost sleep over it."
Cr Jordan Lockett said the work of the marine rescue service was crucial.
"Their area of responsibility has increased enormously," he said.
"We're talking about saving people's lives at sea. If you narrow it down to that it's a no-brainer.
"This is nothing against the yacht club, they can still do what they do. Yes, there is a slight loss of income to adjust to but we have to do this for people's lives, which are at risk out at sea."
The council said groups who currently used the space for activities like yoga and taekwondo would still have use of the facilities.
Cr James Purcell was alone in his vote for the popular lease arrangement.
"I think a licence or lease would work," he said.
"The yacht club has certainly worked very hard to increase participation and use of the facility and I congratulate them.
"They are very keen to have the lease and I would support that, but probably for a reduced period rather than 21 years."
The Port Fairy Yacht Club has been contacted for comment.
On Tuesday the yacht club's Arnold Brian spoke at the council meeting.
"Community support for the club has been overwhelming, with a petition of 460 signatures and a further 200 signing online," he said, of support for a lease.
"Use of the club's facilities by the community is extensive and our current bookings extend to December 2021.
"The club relies upon income generated to hire the facilities, and bar sales to pay for insurance and subsidise cost of memberships.
"Yacht clubs across the state operate under a Crown Land Lease, not a licence."
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