Whis­per be­comes a re­al­ity

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE -

ABOUT 20 years ago, Jamie Loven­bury towed a boat from Vic­to­ria to Cairns and, on the way home, stopped off at Air­lie Beach.

“It was meant to be a fish­ing mecca but I had trou­ble find­ing a boat ramp so I kept head­ing south,” he said.

Thanks to the newly opened Whis­per Bay boat ramp, “that’s not go­ing to hap­pen now”, Mr Loven­bury told a crowd of politi­cians, con­trac­tors, trades­peo­ple and mem­bers of the Whit­sun­day Vol­un­teer Marine Res­cue group last week.

“You come into town and you’ve got this beau­ti­ful in­fra­struc­ture… and (peo­ple) are go­ing to keep com­ing back here be­cause we have this.”

Mr Loven­bury, a com­mit­tee mem­ber of the Whit­sun­day Marine Club and pres­i­dent of the Whit­sun­day Game Fish Club, was one of a num­ber of speak­ers who ad­dressed the of­fi­cial open­ing of the Whis­per Bay boat ramp on Fri­day.

He said since 1995, the WGFC, Air Sea Res­cue (now VMR) and for­mer power­boat club had all used the fa­cil­ity but in de­clin­ing amounts.

Through the years the ramp be­came known for its ex­po­sure to northerly winds.

Ac­ci­dents hap­pened in the wrong weather con­di­tions, lead­ing to se­ri­ous safety con­cerns.

It took a lo­cal and state govern­ment elec­tion, a protest rally down the main street of Air­lie Beach and more than five years of cam­paign­ing but, even­tu­ally, the La­bor State Govern­ment came up with the $3 mil­lion, to which the Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil, through sub­stan­tial hard work, had man­aged to re­duce the over­all cost.

The re­sult was a new break- wall, new float­ing pon­toon and an over­all bet­ter boat ramp, which opened to the pub­lic in Jan­uary.

“And now it’s all fin­ished, the VMR can tow res­cue boats in here on most tides… and as for the Game Fish Club, we have many events here where we just never used to use the old ramp – it was just too dan­ger­ous,” Mr Loven­bury said.

“Now it all hap­pens here, which is awe­some.”

Mr Loven­bury also praised Whit­sun­day Re­gional Coun­cil for its at­ten­tion to de­tail in fin- ish­ing off the job, pro­vid­ing a bet­ter car park, re-grass­ing the lawn and more.

“It’s just bought this place to the next level,” he said, not­ing the dif­fer­ence this would make to the wed­dings and func­tions hosted by the club­house.

Last week’s of­fi­cial pro­ceed­ings were a chance for the politi­cians in­volved to have their “day in the sun” and bask in the suc­cess of pro­vid­ing a true com­mu­nity as­set.

But there was one key per­son miss­ing from the fes­tiv­i­ties.

Bob Spees, the fish­er­man who spear­headed the bet­ter boat ramp cam­paign de­clined the in­vi­ta­tion to at­tend, say­ing “it’s not about pol­lies and peo­ple bash­ing their chest.”

Mr Loven­bury how­ever paid trib­ute to Mr Spees and all those on his team, say­ing they’d “just kept pound­ing and pound­ing to get it done and it’s just awe­some to see what we’ve come up with at the end of the day”.

Mr Spees, in turn, thanked all those who had worked so hard to see the Whis­per Bay boat ramp upgrade be­come a re­al­ity.

“Ev­ery­body who came and signed the pe­ti­tions and pushed with me when we did the pa­rade through Main St, Bron­wyn Taha who saw the pro­ject through, Kevin Collins went out of his way to help, John Atkin­son and Greg France, and the Palaszczuk govern­ment for see­ing it through so quickly in 12 months,” he said.

NEW RAMP: Celia Smith, David Mor­ris, Roger Wod­son, Ron McCall, Gay Bow­den, Nor­bert Gross, Whit­sun­day MP Ja­son Costi­gan, Whit­sun­day Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney, Mem­ber for Mackay Julieanne Gil­bert, Bron­wyn Taha, Cr Jan Clifford, Cr An­drew Will­cox, Cr John Atkin­son, Alan Cor­ney, Ray Lewis, John Cald­well, Rod Wil­son, Jamie and Myla Loven­bury, Berndt Wend­landt and Ge­off Smith.

OF­FI­CIALLY OPEN: Whit­sun­day Mayor Jen­nifer Whit­ney and Mem­ber for Mackay Julieanne Gil­bert (on be­half of min­is­ter Mark Bai­ley) un­veil the new plaque at the Whis­per Bay boat ramp on Fri­day.

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