Boating enthusiasts have long campaigned for Warrnambool's dangerous Lady Bay boat ramp to be upgraded. So when a $1.8m redevelopment was opened last week, it was met with excitement and a collective sigh of 'about time'.
The ageing wooden structures either side of the ramp have been replaced with modern jetties. They enable better tie-up points and more protection for boaters when launching and retrieving. The existing two-lane ramp surface has been replaced with grooved concrete slabs to provide more traction.
But the happiness of users and satisfaction campaigners felt was quickly washed away when it was discovered the ramp, while new, is not to everyone's liking.
The old ramp had claimed many unsuspecting users over the years, including cars slipping into the water. Wave surges made it difficult for boats to be launched safely. Only the wise and experienced, not without trepidation, would launch boats into Lady Bay. The Warrnambool district economy has reportedly missed out on millions of dollars from users bypassing the ramp in favour of Portland and Port Fairy. Rightly so, users voted in a statewide survey that Warrnambool's boat ramp was the worst in Victoria.
So there was outrage this week when we revealed Deakin University's research vessel was unable to be launched from the new facility because the ramp was too steep.
How can this happen?
Deakin researchers have used the ramp for decades, mapping the sea floor and servicing its wave buoy network for the state government which provides information that helps understand coastal erosion. Was Deakin consulted about the ramp's design?
It comes after Queenscliff's ramp was changed this years, which also prevented the university from using it. Deakin is desperate for a proposed upgrade at Port Fairy to not end in the same result.
Warrnambool City Council is quick to get the blame but it manages the port on behalf of the state government. Better Boating Victoria, which funded the project, should be the authority on such designs.
It now says it will work with the council and university researchers to find solutions. At what cost? And at what expense to university researchers' time and fuel bills? Better Boating Victoria says it will also work to better understand the issue of wave surges impacting the ramp and find solutions. And the so wait goes on for boat users. Let's hope it won't become a story of the one that got away... again.
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