Blame game in play over scuttled ship plan
Recriminations are under way after Tasmania turned down a federal government gift of a decommissioned warship, ending plans to scuttle it off the east coast as a dive attraction.
The plan to scuttle HMAS Darwin had split opinion in the Bay of Fires region, with some locals backing it as an economic boom but others concerned about impacts on the environment and the region’s eco-tourism brand. State Growth Minister Peter Gutwein said the cost of preparing and sinking the 4000-tonne, 138m frigate was the key factor in the decision to turn down the offer. “Due diligence … has identified it would cost in excess of $12 million to prepare and establish the ex-HMAS Darwin as a dive wreck,” he said. “The department found further ongoing costs (of) approximately $600,000 per annum … that would not be covered by dive permit receipts. The government believes these resources would be better invested into health, education or other initiatives that would provide a greater benefit.”
St Helens resident Lesa Whittaker, who helped lead the fight against the wreck, hailed the “amazing” decision as sensible while Bicheno-based dive operator Peter Paulsen said it was “gut-wrenching”. He said feasibility studies had suggested a maximum cost of $7.5m; he questioned why the government had bid for the ship only to turn it down when it was offered.