No grant applications here folks... we just don't want the work load

Today saw the announcement by Andrew Constance advising the community that applications are now open for round 2 of the NSW Boating Program which is set to commit $17 million to improve boating facilities across NSW. This is the next round of the $70 million NSW Boating Now program, a NSW Government initiative to deliver accessible, modern and safe boating infrastructure where it’s needed the most. This next allocation adds to the $37.5 million which was allocated in 2015 to 192 round one priority projects that are currently being delivered around the State that are already making a massive improvement to boating facilities in regional communities.

These projects were identified during consultation with the people who use these waterways the most to ensure that every project delivered through the program helps provide a great boating experience in NSW

Under round 2, consideration will be given to priority projects that were identified during consultation on the Regional Boating Plans and any new projects identified by Councils or other delivery partners. In 2015 Member for Bega Andrew Constance announced the NSW Government will invest $693,000 on five key boating projects in the Eurobodalla to boost safety and accessibility for boaters. These were:

  • Upgrading the boat ramp and install new pontoon at Apex Park, Narooma

  • Upgrading the parking at Old Punt Road boat ramp, North Batemans Bay

  • Upgrading the ramp and parking at Tomakin (Kingston Place)

  • Provide a sewage pumpout at Batemans Bay

  • Improve boating access at Batemans Bay/Clyde River following the completion of existing boating infrastructure study

While Council might first appear from the above list of 2105 projects to be proactive in securing out the generous funding that are made available via the Better Boating programmes and from the vast contributions derived from Recreational Fishing licences there are building concerns from key representatives of our Eurobodalla recreational fishing businesses, groups and clubs regarding the continued reluctance shown by Eurobodalla Council to take up the opportunity of funding grants to improve infrastructure. While many might see an opportunity for the area to take on new infrastructure it is often commented that Council already appears to have considerable difficulty in simply maintaining the existing infrastructure it has and that simple things such as boat ramp cleaning and sand removal at boat ramps to allow boats easier access to and from the water is beyond their budget or their perception of priority. Under the “Boating Now “program at least 50% funding can be provided subject to the ramp classification, this percentage can increase. This issue has been raised with NSW Fisheries and will be discussed at a future Recreational Fishing NSW meeting.

Although some improved facilities have been provided in the Shire there are more needed to keep pace with community expectations and to assist in attracting tourism and holding events.

Following discussions with Council it has been identified that deprecation and maintenance of assets are issues that must be considered in future financial budgets. Regular meetings are new being held with the Mayor to identify how these concerns can be resolved.

Recently Council have advised that removing sand from boat ramps is not considered a prudent use of funds. Although the Recreational Fishing Association (RFA) understands the boat ramps are checked on a monthly basis it would seem that funds will not be used to remove thick layers of sand. What they fail to appreciate is that a sanded boatramp is an inoperative boatramp and as such is a FAILED tourism facility that offers ZERO experience to a visiting fisher that will cause that fisher to go elsewhere. What Council fails to recognise is that the South East of NSW has been recognised as a $300 million recreational fishing injection to the area that carries through to accommodation, services and most importantly local economic stimulation. It is fast becoming obvious that there are breakdowns in communication with the “silos” that exist within Council between Engineering practicality, Town Planning; identifying recreational need and Tourism; identifying tourism necessity.

At least two boat ramps in the Shire also have sand build to the extent that the RFA is concerned they may pose a safety problem particularly to those using the ramps with 2WD vehicles. When a boat is retrieved to it’s trailer and winches on the physics at hand can have the effect of taking the weight off the rear wheels of a vehicle. If they are drive wheels the vehicle loses traction and this causes it to slide – backwards into the drink.

Above: "Lost a bit of traction Mate?"

The cleaning of ramps has long been an issue with Eurobodalla Council as it requires pressure hosing or even the treatment of copper in the past and the RFA Safety Officer has been holding discussions with Roads and Maritime regarding these locations. It is understood a recommended policy is expected to be released soon. Eurobodalla is lucky in so far that there are a number of ramps that can be used depending on distance to travel, location to be fished, tide, sea and wind conditions. Ongoing discussions will continue with Council with the aim of seeking further clarification on their current position with boat ramp maintenance. There is no point having these facilities if they are not maintained. While the community considers the bare basics of boat ramp maintenance and the perceived poor performance of Council to maintain the elementary accessibility of some of its key boatramps it isn't too hard to see that ideas put to council of floating pontoons that might provide disabled access to recreational fishing is all too complex and that the easy option is to just ignore any approaches by local fishing groups to to reiterate that any new facility will require a maintenance budget and that without increased rates the community should not aim so high as they can't afford such luxuries. This article has been contributed in most by Name and Address supplied

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