Boating ban on hold

By Jared Loughnan

A ban on wake enhancing boats and activities including wakeboarding and wakesurfing on a 49km stretch of the Murray River between Bundalong and Corowa has been put on hold.

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 activity zonings along the river.”

Local waterskiing professional and Skin Ski and Surf store owner Peter O’Neill said he wasn’t surprised the restrictions were not carried through.

“There wasn’t enough evidence to support their reasoning.

“We can now work on more appropriate education and safety measures for boaters.  It’s a good outcome for the community,” Mr O’Neill said.

More than 300 submissions were received during the community consultation earlier this year after the draft plan was released by RMS in December, last year recommending a trial ban on wake enhancing boats and activities for three years, even up to five years. Public consultation closed on February 28.   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 business 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 socio-economic 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 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.