Push for better boating strategies
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.