Push for bet­ter boat­ing strate­gies

The Free Press (Corowa) - - FRONT PAGE - BY JARED LOUGHNAN AND JARRYD BARCA

With the pro­posed ban on wake en­hanc­ing boats and ac­tiv­i­ties on a 49km stretch of the Mur­ray River be­tween Bun­da­long and Corowa put on hold lo­cal res­i­dents are now push­ing for com­mu­nity led con­sul­ta­tion with a pos­si­ble adop­tion of des­ig­nated boat­ing ac­tiv­ity zones.

Fed­er­a­tion Coun­cil Mayor Pat Bourke was happy the bans were now on the back­burner but wants to see more com­mu­nity led con­sul­ta­tion.

“I think the right de­ci­sion has been made in re­spects to putting the ban on hold,” Mr Bourke told The Free Press.

“This pe­riod now pro­vides com­mu­nity mem­bers and wa­ter users with the op­por­tu­nity to come to­gether and im­ple­ment some great strate­gies and ini­tia­tives that were iden­ti­fied through the many pub­lic meet­ings.

“If these strate­gies and ini­tia­tives are put in place, mov­ing for­ward there may not be a need for such dras­tic mea­sures to oc­cur such as the wake­board­ing boat ban.”

Mr Bourke was adamant when he said there was no suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to prove wake­board­ing causes ero­sion on the banks.

“That was some­thing that I re­ally took out of the whole process. There was a lot of grey area, and for me the ev­i­dence was not ac­cu­rately con­sis­tent,” he said.

“More research needs to be done in re­spect to the find­ings tabled.”

Look­ing for­ward, Mr Bourke said he would like to see the com­mu­nity lead the way by de­vel­op­ing strate­gies and ini­tia­tives for river preser­va­tion.

“We know the river is such an amaz­ing as­set for our re­gion and we need to re­main re­spect­ful of that and en­sure that we be proac­tive and work to­gether to main­tain a healthy river sys­tem so we can con­tinue to en­joy it for many years to come,” he said.

Mul­wala Wa­ter Ski Club Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Peter Dun­can said he was also glad that Roads and Maritime Ser­vices (RMS) has put the plan on hold but was scep­ti­cal and be­lieved once the NSW State Elec­tion is over in March it will be back on the agenda again

“For now it’s a win-win for boat­ing and tourism,” Mr Dun­can said.

“I just hope they adopt the shared ac­tiv­ity zones that Save Boat­ing on the Mur­ray group put to­gether. It will vir­tu­ally achieve the ben­e­fits they set out to achieve in the first place.

“It is in­evitable there is go­ing to be more reg­u­la­tion on the river but I am hop­ing it is done with com­mon sense us­ing the right research in­clud­ing tak­ing into ac­count the so­cio eco­nomic ef­fects of any change.”

Mr Dun­can said he ex­pected MDBA and RMS to be out on the wa­ter this sum­mer closely mon­i­tor­ing boat­ing to fur­ther gather research to back up any fu­ture change along the river for boat­ing.

Roads and Maritime Ser­vices (RMS) Ex­ec­u­tive Di­rec­tor Maritime An­gus Mitchell said that pro­posed re­stric­tions will not be im­ple­mented un­til ev­i­dence is gath­ered in key ar­eas to es­tab­lish if there is a real need for the bans.

“Mov­ing for­ward any op­tions for change will be in­formed by com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion,” Mr Mitchell said.

“It is clear that more work needs to be done and ev­i­dence gath­ered in key ar­eas in­clud­ing ves­sel op­er­a­tions, in­ci­dents and com­pli­ance and ero­sion, to in­form the need and mer­its of any op­tions for change.”

Fol­low­ing com­mu­nity feed­back on the Draft River Mur­ray (Corowa to Ovens River) Ero­sion Man­age­ment Plan RMS have em­pha­sised a need for fur­ther re­view of the pro­posed boat­ing man­age­ment op­tions.

“Boat­ing is a way of life for many peo­ple in this area. Roads and Maritime will con­tinue to work with the Mur­ray Dar­ling Basin Author­ity, lo­cal coun­cils, Marine Safety Vic­to­ria and other stake­hold­ers to achieve the right bal­ance of so­cial, eco­nomic, safety and en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes,” Mr Mitchell said.

“Dur­ing this time, a com­pre­hen­sive ed­u­ca­tion and com­pli­ance op­er­a­tional pro­gram will be de­vel­oped in the re­gion with a fo­cus on safe and re­spon­si­ble use of ves­sels.”

Save Boat­ing on the Mur­ray River group spokesper­son Brett But­ler was pleased that RMS had lis­tened to the com­mu­nity and hoped they would adopt sug­ges­tions of ac­tiv­ity friendly zones sug­gested by the com­mit­tee in­stead of com­plete bans.

“I hon­estly think they did not re­alise the ef­fects to the com­mu­nity if the pro­posed re­stric­tions were im­ple­mented,” Mr But­ler said.

“It’s great they are putting the orig­i­nal plan on hold and we are now keen as ever to work with RMS on more suitable safety and ed­u­ca­tion pro­grams and even our idea of shared boat­ing ac­tiv­ity zon­ings along the river.”

More than 300 sub­mis­sions were re­ceived dur­ing the com­mu­nity con­sul­ta­tion af­ter the draft plan was re­leased by RMS in De­cem­ber 2017, rec­om­mend­ing a trial ban on wake en­hanc­ing boats and ac­tiv­i­ties for three years, even up to five years. An on­line pe­ti­tion try­ing to stop the pro­posed ban had also at­tracted over 7000 sig­na­tures dur­ing this time.

The Save Boat­ing on the Mur­ray River group, which started the on­line pe­ti­tion that was sent to NSW Maritime Min­is­ter Melinda Pavey and var­i­ous lo­cal state and fed­eral politi­cians, aimed to shift the is­sue from ero­sion to im­prov­ing and ed­u­cat­ing boat users on safety and eti­quette on the wa­ter.

Con­cerns were raised by the group, res­i­dents and lo­cal busi­nesses own­ers about the draft plan’s lack of di­rect sci­en­tific ev­i­dence on ero­sion caused from boat­ing in the area and the plan’s fail­ure to ad­dress so­cioe­co­nomic im­pacts from the pro­posed ban. Con­cerns were also raised that fur­ther wake en­hanc­ing re­stric­tions could even­tu­ally be en­forced on the other ar­eas along the Mur­ray River.

Roads and Maritime Prin­ci­pal Man­ager South­ern Maritime, Michael Ham­mond, said af­ter the con­sul­ta­tion pe­riod fin­ished there were a range of top­ics raised in the sub­mis­sions re­ceived.

“The main top­ics raised re­lated to busi­ness and the lo­cal econ­omy, en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns and out­comes and safety and amenity is­sues,” Mr Ham­mond said.

“We want to get this right, and con­sider all the de­tails and feed­back pro­vided, so it’s im­por­tant not to rush this part of the process.

“As I said at the Corowa meet­ing, when the re­port has been fully drafted, the next step will be to have the stake­holder rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the River Mur­ray Project Man­age­ment Com­mit­tee re­view and con­sider the dif­fer­ent views, information, data and pro­pos­als.

“The com­mit­tee will then ad­vise the MDBA and Roads and Maritime of any pos­si­ble changes and make rec­om­men­da­tions in­flu­enc­ing the cur­rent draft plan.

“Rec­om­men­da­tions will then be con­sid­ered for im­ple­men­ta­tion by Roads and Maritime and the NSW Min­is­ter for Roads and Maritime and Freight, Melinda Pavey.”

It was orig­i­nally ex­pected that the fi­nal plan was to be fi­nalised and im­ple­mented by June/ July this year.

While fur­ther work is be­ing done, the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Author­ity will con­tinue to gather ap­pro­pri­ate data re­lated to the River Mur­ray be­tween Corowa and the Ovens River junc­tion.

The Draft Mur­ray River Ero­sion Man­age­ment Plan that rec­om­mended a trial ban on wake en­hanc­ing boats and ac­tiv­i­ties in­clud­ing wake­board­ing and wakesurf­ing on a 49km stretch of the Mur­ray River be­tween Bun­da­long and Corowa for three years, even up to five years is on hold.

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