Dive wreck plan scut­tled

Mercury (Hobart) - - NEWSFRONT - EMILY BAKER

THE State Govern­ment has sunk plans to scut­tle former war­ship HMAS Dar­win off the East Coast af­ter an in­ves­ti­ga­tion of costs found the project “fi­nan­cially un­fea­si­ble”.

The Fed­eral Govern­ment this year of­fered Tas­ma­nia the former Navy ves­sel to serve as a dive wreck in the Bay of Fires’ Skele­ton Bay af­ter years of lob­by­ing from lo­cal groups.

State Growth Min­is­ter Peter Gutwein said his de­part­ment’s anal­y­sis re­vealed it would cost the Govern­ment about $12.5 mil­lion to pre­pare and establish ex-HMAS Dar­win as a dive site.

On­go­ing costs would amount to more than $600,000 a year, he said, adding it would have cost the Govern­ment about $330,000 to un­der­pin each of the 36 as­so­ci­ated jobs.

“The Govern­ment be­lieves these re­sources would be bet­ter in­vested into health, ed­u­ca­tion or other ini­tia­tives that would pro­vide a greater ben­e­fit to the state,” Mr Gutwein said.

“We thank the Com­mon­wealth for their of­fer, how­ever, the costs as­so­ci­ated with the project have ren­dered it fi­nan­cially un­fea­si­ble.”

Bay of Fires Dive owner Peter Paulsen, who has been push­ing for an East Coast dive wreck for 17 years, said the de­ci­sion was “not about a lack of fund­ing, but about a lack of courage”.

“We can’t ar­gue that they want to put good money into health and ed­u­ca­tion, but that in­vest­ment in those ar­eas doesn’t pro­vide the North-East cor­ner of Tas­ma­nia with an eco­nomic foun­da­tion,” Mr Paulsen said. ”I still be­lieve and al­ways have be­lieved we have an ab­so­lutely per­fect site for this sort of ven­ture ... it’s there to be done.”

Tas­ma­nian Lib­eral Se­na­tor Jonathon Du­niam broke ranks with his state coun­ter­parts to la­bel the de­ci­sion “dis­ap­point­ing”.

“This is a blow to the St He­lens com­mu­nity who were ex- cited at the prospect of this new tourism at­trac­tion and the pos­si­ble eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity it would generate,” Se­na­tor Du­niam said.

But Break O’Day Mayor Mick Tucker said he un­der­stood why the project had been knocked back. The Tourism In­dus­try Coun­cil Tas­ma­nia also backed the Govern­ment’s move, chief ex­ec­u­tive Luke Martin said.

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