‘WE WANT ACTION’
Local boaties hold MP to account
IN MARCH 2012, the Whitsunday community rallied for improvements to Cannonvale’s Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) boat ramp.
Hundreds of people hooked boats onto trailers and joined a procession from the ramp to Port of Airlie and back, culminating in an emotionally charged protest.
A petition for a rock wall to be built attracted about 2000 signatures from people with genuine concerns that in the wrong conditions the ramp was simply not safe.
There was an election looming at the time and each of the four candidates vying for the State Government seat of Whitsunday pledged to fight for the appropriate facilities.
At a candidate’s forum at the Reef Gateway Hotel on Monday, March 19, 2012, Jason Costigan, who later that week claimed the seat with a landslide victory, said, “If the feasibility study stacks up [for VMR], ladies and gentlemen we will get the job done”.
Fast-forward two years and despite the completion of feasibility studies and submissions for funding, nothing at the ramp has changed.
Angered by the apparent lack of action, boat ramp advocates are now vowing to resume the fight, saying too much is at stake to let it drop.
BOAT ramp committee member John Atkinson said Council had played its part and the minister for transport Scott Emerson had provided written support in July 2012, stating that the Queensland Government had committed $50million to small marine infrastructure over the next four years.
Mr Atkinson said all that remained was for Mr Costigan to pick up the ball.
“We were hoping Jason would have followed this up by now, but every time we speak to him he’s full of excuses,” Mr Atkinson said.
Mr Costigan responded by saying money was tight.
“It goes without saying there’s only a certain amount of money in the pocket to deliver marine infrastructure including boat ramps,” he said. “We’ve spoken about boat ramps in the parliament and it’s not something we have forgotten about but I don’t think people realise what a mess this state’s finances are in – it’s like trying to turn the Queen Mary around.”
Whether the money is there or not, boat ramp committee member and Whitsunday Fishing World proprietor Bob Spees has always maintained it is only a matter of time before someone at the VMR ramp is hurt or killed. “We may as well shut the ramp and put a sign up saying it’s closed because government broke their promise,” he said.
“The only time we hear from Jason is when he starts showing his face because there’s an election coming up but the people are not that stupid and we will remember his promises.
“We need Jason to come on board – come and work with us – that’s what you were elected for.”
The boat ramp committee is hoping to secure a meeting with local government minister David Crisafulli next month. Mr Costigan said he had already spoken with the minister and fully expected to attend.
“I want the minister to come to the region and see how we can advance the project and take this forward,” he said.
RAMPING UP: Ash Warland, Wade Watson, Alex Ibbott, Ashley and Shannon Matthews, Glenn Goddard, Bob Spees, Ross Martin, Grant Spees and Malcom Bennett, were all involved in the original boat ramp protest of 2012 and are ready to fight again, for better facilities at Cannonvale's VMR. They are pictured holding correspondance from the Queensland Government expressing broad support for the project.
HELD TO ACCOUNT: Boat ramp committee members Bob Spees and John Atkinson say Whitsunday MP Jason Costigan needs to pick up the ball and honour his election promises to fight for an upgrade to the unsafe boat ramp at Cannonvale's VMR.