Concerns are still building that further wake enhancing boating restrictions could eventually be enforced on other areas along the Murray River on top of the Bundalong to Corowa trial threatening tourism and jobs.
The Corowa to Ovens Junction Murray River Draft Erosion Management Plan is set to enforce a proposed ban on wake enhancing boating activities on a 49km stretch between Bundalong and Corowa for three years, with suggestions of up to five years from the middle of this year.
Although authorities say there are no plans to widen the ban, RMS Principal Manager South Operations and Compliance Mike Hammond told the Riverina Herald recently it could eventually include other areas, such as Echuca-Moama, if there was a need for it.
‘‘It depends on the outcome of the trial. It may be discussed,’’ he said.
‘‘If it is a great success, we are certainly not going to consider other restrictions until the trial concludes and the outcomes are measured. Then there would obviously be a consultation period.
‘‘(It could be considered) if the trial is successful and there are calls from the local community and it’s done in a reasonable way with the support of the local community.’’
According to the MDBA, the trial ban is necessary to stop significant and accelerated erosion along that section of river.
It says high boat wash, particularly from wakeboarding, contributed to that erosion and a ban, along with riverbank rehabilitation work, would improve the resilience of river banks to erosion.
‘‘All we’re trying to do is create a space where high wash activities are restricted for environmental purposes and for the safety of other river users,’’ Mr Hammond said.
‘‘The wash from wakeboards (wake enhanced boating) has caused other vessels to capsize. We have had complaints about the large wash having a significant impact on other river users who have told us that they refuse to go canoeing or take their kids swimming because of it.
‘‘It seems reasonable for a part of the river to be set aside for other users. Wakeboards will still have their area to use. We’re not trying to ban all boats or skiing.
‘‘Activities that create high wash have an impact on the health of the river. All we are doing is trying to see if this trial ban will make a difference in erosion.’’
In January a packed information meeting at the Bundalong Recreation Reserve hall conducted by Road and Maritime Services highlighted why the concerns have grown.
Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said that he had read a report from the Murray Darling Basin Authority that if this river closure or banning of wakeboard boating is successful in this plan they will then role this out on a broader scale.
“I am concerned; is this, the start of something bigger? I just need some sort of assurance that this is not the start of a broader plan,” Mr McCurdy said.
RMS General Manager Operations Policy & Performance David Hunter said that it was the only plan on the table that aims to manage erosion through boating restrictions. But went onto say; “this is the only area we have focused on at the moment.”
The comment was met with many jeers from those in attendance.
The move has shocked business and boating communities in the Bundalong and Corowa region, who claim it is unnecessary and will decimate tourism.
The Save the Boating on the Murray group has called for the plan to be abolished and will be putting in a formal submission to government authorities and the NSW Maritime Minister Melinda Pavey highlighting their concerns about the plan.
“We will be asking for the plan to be scrapped and want to work solely with RMS without MDBA,” committee member Brett Butler said.
Mr Butler said the group felt it was necessary and believe their draft activity zone plan which aims at establishing a more cohesive plan along the river taking into account all boating users is the better way forward. The committee has welcomed suggestions and comments regarding the activity zone plan and will drop further information to Yarrawonga businesses owners this week.
“We encourage people to read the information and understand why we have made this stand and encourage them to then attend the information session in Yarrawonga next week and ask any further questions of the authorities.
“Whatever happens from here can affect us all,” Mr Butler said.
The groups draft activity zone plan can be viewed below.
The next information meeting on the plan is at the Yarrawonga Community Hall next Tuesday, February 13 starting at 6pm.
Have your say
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:
• 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