Lo­cal boat­ies hold MP to ac­count

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Sharon Small­wood

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.

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