Mulwala Water Ski Club CEO Peter Duncan predicts more than 650 jobs could be wiped out from the region if a proposed ban on wake enhancing boating between Bundalong and Corowa is enforced next Easter.
“This proposed ban could eventually spell the end of many types of boating, not just wakeboarding,” Mr Duncan said.
“I have seen the research that clearly shows that boating only makes up two per cent of erosion issues on a river.
“So to ban any type of boating for erosion reasons is absurd and could see more than 650 jobs lost in the area.
“It’s disappointing to think authorities would impose such devastating bans to gain just two per cent benefit in erosion control,” he said.
The Draft Murray River Erosion Management Plan which was released by NSW Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) on December 1 recommends a trial ban on wake enhancing boats and activities for three years, even up to five years and has left many businesses worried including the Mulwala Water Ski Club, one of the town’s largest employers.
Referring to the plan Mr Duncan believes in its current form the ban could leave a trail of disaster on the regional economy.
“Tourism is our major industry. It drives growth and jobs. So to ban any type of boating will have major impacts on the industry.
“We are a boating mecca. Some people who love boating have been coming to our towns for decades. Wakeboarding now makes up more than 60 per cent of recreational boating and those who do it often spend big.
“It’s simple if we wipe out this boating, we wipe out many jobs and businesses with it. Once one ban gets approved who’s to say others won’t follow?
“We want to work with authorities to work out solutions where everyone can use the river in a safe and responsible way and not have bans placed on us that are not based on real evidence.”
Mr Duncan said the “Save Boating on the Murray Group”, which was formed several week ago in response to the draft plan, have been meeting over the past few weeks with local councils, federal and state politicians including Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, NSW Member for Albury, Greg Aplin, Victorian Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy and will meet RMS General Manager Operational Policy & Performance David Hunter at the ski club on Tuesday.
“Once we get the opportunity to explain our concerns with this plan people can really understand that a boating ban based on erosion is not the right way to go about managing boat use on our waterway,” Mr Duncan said.
Group spokesperson and local business owner Peter O’Neill said many people on the committee will be directly affected by the ban.
“Obviously it is feared that this is a first step in banning wakeboarding altogether and could lead to a banning of all boats, which will be a massive economic blow,” Mr O’Neill said.
“Even short term, the current ban or talk of a ban will and has turned people away. People coming for the weekend or the week will simply see that there has been a ban on wakeboarding and turn away, why not go to Echuca?
“This isn’t just the big wakeboarding boats, this is the families and groups that come and camp on the river or in the holiday parks. They come into town for dinner, shop in the town, and spend their holiday money in our towns.
“Just a ten per cent reduction in traffic during this important busy time of the year, a time when we take more a day than a month in winter, has major effects, staff could be laid off, shops might shut, people may move away.”
Federation Council Mayor Pat Bourke said the Murray River health is very important to all people who live along it.
“The river plays an important part in our lifestyle and the viability of all our communities situated along it,” he said.
“Therefore this issue is very close and very important to us and we want to achieve the right outcomes for all.”
Mayor Bourke said it is imperative any evidence and science used to make decisions is factual and relevant to the actual locations and boating uses in question.
“I believe the best approach is to roll out more education on responsible boating in our communities.
“Banning boating in any form will only have major and far-reaching socio economic impacts on this region.”
Victorian Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said the group understands the health of the river comes first, they want what is best for the river and the community.
“We need a balance and must find a way so all groups have a co-existence,” Mr McCurdy said.
“There is a responsibility on boat users to do the right thing in regards to matters such as this.
“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.
Have your say by February 28
Feedback can be provided via the project website, email to [email protected], or mail to Murray River Erosion Project, Roads and Maritime Services, Locked Bag 5100, Camperdown NSW 1450.
Visit a drop-in information session to find out more about the plan, ask questions and leave feedback at:
• Bundalong: 6-8pm on Monday 15 January 2018 at the Bundalong Community Centre, Bundalong Recreational Reserve, Pyke Street, Bundalong
• Yarrawonga: 6pm-8pm on Tuesday 13 February 2018 at the Yarrawonga Community Hall, Orr Street, Yarrawonga
• Corowa: 6pm-8pm on Thursday 15 February 2018 at Memorial Hall, Sanger Street, Corowa.For more information call 1800 316 622 or visit www.rms.nsw.gov.au/projects/south-coast/MurrayRiverErosion.html