Mooring fees in the sought-after Port of Port Fairy are very likely to spike over the next decade, after the committee overseeing the port recommended a price hike to council.
The fee hike provoked backlash from some boat owners when it was mooted in October last year, but Moyne Shire councillor Jim Doukas, who chairs the Port of Port Fairy committee, said he and his colleagues were satisfied with the proposal.
"We stuck with the original proposal that was advertised, and that's what we've recommended to council.
"It will be included in the upcoming budget and finalised in May for the June council meeting when it will go before the councillors for authorisation," Cr Doukas said.
The proposal outlined a 10 per cent increase to berthing fees in the Port of Port Fairy every year for the next 10 years.
Prices would rise from July 1, 2022, but because of the compounding effect of the yearly increases, they would almost triple over the following decade, spiking by 260 per cent by 2032.
Cr Doukas said the fees were cheap compared with similar Victorian ports and even after the price hike they would not be "exorbitant".
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He said feedback from boat owners was taken into account before the decision to stick with the original fee hike proposal.
"We didn't get a lot of feedback during the consultation period, we got a couple of letters from boat owners who weren't that happy," he said.
One of the unhappy boat owners, John Clue, said he was unwilling to let the matter drop.
"I sent council a long list of questions about the proposal and my questions haven't been answered," Mr Clue said.
"They have just plucked that 10 per cent figure out of thin air."
Cr Doukas said the 10 per cent annual rise was in order to increase the share of port revenue produced by fees and charges from 18 per cent to 33 per cent by 2032. The remainder of the Port of Port Fairy's revenue comes from the Department of Transport, which owns many of the assets within the port.
Cr Doukas said the request to raise fee revenue came directly from the Department of Transport, which wanted to minimise its financial outlay on the port.
Mr Clue asked why local boat owners had to wear the cost of the department's decision, and raised the redeveloped wharf building, which was supposed to bring in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue to the port.
As reported in The Standard yesterday, depreciation, maintenance and dredging costs mean almost no revenue from the wharf building flows back into the port's council assets.
Mr Clue said council should open up its books to show why so much of the building's revenue was spent on depreciation, saying it may be an "accounting tactic".
"They should be able to produce information with all the budgeting for the port that shows how they come up with that depreciation figure," he said.
Mr Clue said some boat owners would have to give up their berths, and perhaps sell their boats, if the price rise were approved.
If berths did become available there would be a long queue of people waiting to snap up the vacancies.
Port of Port Fairy coordinator David Mattner said the port had about 65 berths, with all bar one being long-term arrangements.
Mr Mattner said he kept a waiting list, but because the port contained a range of berths for different sized vessels, the waiting list didn't really give an idea of the overall demand for berths. He did say demand was extremely strong.
"I get 20 or 30 calls every week from people asking about vacant berths," he said.
Mr Mattner said he didn't expect the potential fee hike to dampen demand.
"It will always be popular. Port Fairy has very limited real estate at the port."
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