A proposed ban on wake enhancing boats between Bundalong and Corowa for up to five years has caused shockwaves through local communities and has been slammed by the Boating Industry Association of Victoria and local politicians.
The proposed ban is expected to start next Easter and last for a minimum of three years but could be five years.
NSW Roads and Maritime Services have not yet revealed the specific proposals contained in the Corowa to Ovens Junction Murray River Draft Erosion Management Plan, due to be released publicly this Friday, December 1.
Boating Industry Association of Victoria Advocacy and Membership Services Manager Ben Scullin said the proposed ban appeared to be more of a “social licence issue” rather than a decision based on true science.
“This is a clear attack on all boating and skiing could be next. We will fight this,” Mr Scullin said.
“I can’t see any actual evidence that suggests they have satisfactory monitored boating and its actual affects on erosion in this area.”
Bundalong residents and local business representatives met on Monday at the Bundalong Tavern with Mr Scullin and are concerned the proposed bans could decimate the local community and many businesses along with it.
Bundalong Tavern owner Brett Butler said the town depended on boating for its survival.
“This ban will have a devastating effect on the community. They need to prove to us the evidence that boating is causing erosion. We are going to fight this,” Brett said.
Local ski instructor and business owner of Skin, Ski and Surf in Yarrawonga Peter O’Neil, said a three-year restriction can ruin the local community.
“It could potentially shut my business,” he said.
“It’s not just wakeboarders that won’t come, it’s families who not only wakeboard but waterski, tube and kneeboard also.
“They’ll all go, if they can’t wakeboard here, they won’t bother coming here, They will go somewhere where they can do all their skiing.”
Mr O’Neil believes authorities imposing this ban haven’t thought it through at all.
Mr Scullin in his objection to the planned bans has referred to a report that was brought out by Murray Darling Basin Authority in April 2017; Bank erosion along the River Murray between Hume Dam and the Ovens Junction, that focuses on the impacts of vessel wash.
“The report states under the heading Monitoring Methods that “the monitoring program was not developed to assess the impacts of boating”, yet they want to impose a ban on this type of boating that makes up more than sixty per cent of this river use,” he said.
“He also referred to an example they used from a study back in 2014 that showed a dramatic photo of erosion at the Hawke property in Wahgunyah.
“Ironically this stretch of water is now a four knot zone but was an eight knot zone when the study was done, and as a result has very little boat wash.
“The graph on page nine does not even make sense, this is very sloppy work.
“We know that much of the bank erosion is caused by the constant changing river flows, currents and flooding so why the attack on boating?”
Mr Scullin said there has been major flooding in the area over the last seven years which has caused much of the erosion along with the constant changing of river flows due to increased releases at Hume Dam.
“The social and economic impact of this ban and possible subsequent bans could cost the economy millions and many jobs along with it.
“It happened in the lower Williams River in NSW and could happen here. We could eventually have a total no-wash boating zone from Corowa all the way to the Yarrawonga bridge.
“It appears they have been planning this for years.”
McCurdy voices concern about ban
Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said the ban on wake boarding and wake surfing between Bundalong and Corowa could prove disastrous for tourism in the region.
Mr McCurdy said on the evidence he’d read, most erosion was caused by the rise and fall of river levels, not wake boating.
“I have no problem about making decisions based on sound advice but to me this is not based on sound advice,” he said.
Mr McCurdy met with NSW Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister Melinda Pavey in Canberra last week to voice his concerns and seek more detail about the draft plan.
Mr McCurdy said the meeting was productive with the Minister listening to the concerns he raised regarding the proposal.
“The health of the river comes first but we need evidence-based information that it is in fact wakeboards that are causing the issue with erosion,” Mr McCurdy said.
“There is concern that upstream of Bundalong there are areas of the river that are particularly narrow and are therefore more susceptible to erosion.
“There is a responsibility on boat users to do the right in regards to matters such as this.”
Mr McCurdy said more than 90 per cent of recreational Murray River users were Victorians who would be prohibited from wakeboarding from Bundalong to Corowa as part of the proposed trial ban.
“The opportunity is here now for consultation with boat users over the summer period and people should take that and have their say,” he said.
“The ball is in the court of the tourist population along the Murray River to share their thoughts over the summer.”
An RMS spokeswoman said the multi-agency draft plan committee, which included local council representatives, was formed 12 months ago aimed to find the best balance of environmental concerns against popular water activities.
“The draft plan acknowledges there are a number of factors which contribute to erosion levels in this section of the river, including the regulation of water levels, and contains a number of water and land-based proposed actions, which may be implemented as a trial which would be monitored and reviewed,” she said.
The draft River Murray (Corowa to Ovens River) Erosion Management Plan is to be released this Friday with a community consultation period over the coming summer months including public information sessions held in Albury, Corowa and Yarrawonga.
Community feedback received will then be considered to finalise the Erosion Management Plan. The final plan is expected to be trialled in 2018 for between three to five years and the results monitored closely.
Go to www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/south-coast/river-murray-erosion-management-plan to see the plan.