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Maritime now in new hands

The Beagle Editor, Maritime has thankfully a new Minister in The Honorable Andrew Constance, the local member for Bega. Andrew becomes the Minister for Transport and Roads – Not Main Roads, that would be too similar to Queensland’s Department. Yes Roads, again not the back-roads of the country but the wide roads running east and west, and north and south particularly from Sydney to the Victorian boarder. It also includes major road projects like the Batemans Bay bridge replacement. Now that is a good thing but an even better move for this hard working and effective Minister is him taking over Maritime. Yes the waterways of our great state and that includes the Clyde River. He will have direct responsibility for the navigation aids and infrastructure within the marine environment. That hopefully covers our small ports of Batemans Bay, Bermagui and Eden but much more importantly the funding of the maritime infrastructure within the Eurobodalla. Now, what changes should Andrew Constance made immediately? Firstly the representation on the Maritime advisory committees. The MAC, RVAG and BVAG and others. For too long these bodies have been stacked with commercial organisations pushing an agenda that benefits their retail and commercial members – retail stores, marine services, educators, marinas, even pilots.The real boaters and on-water fishers are not adequately represented on MAC or RVAC (Recreational Vessels Advisory Group) nor the newly formed BVAG. The latter are just hand chosen unrepresentative, unidentifiable persons required only to tick the box of “communication with the public”. Try and get an agenda item at any of these group meetings or try to contact any one of these bodies members (fishos excepted). Impossible even in today's social media world.So lets get representation, transparency and real communication with the boating public about safety and their money on the agenda at Maritime’s reshuffle, amalgamation and hopefully new approach. The next big change is about money and specifically the allocation of the Boating Now fund so that the boating licence fees are allocated equitably all along the coast. Not $5,0 million for the Coffs Harbour boat ramp and about $500,000 for Eurobodalla parking areas adjacent to the boat ramps. How will the new Minister do that? Simple, as a past Treasurer of NSW he understands the economic concept of capital expenditure and maintenance costs. So give a grant to a shire in two parts – Capital for the boatramps, pontoons, fish clean tables, parking and lighting. This is provided to the Shire to approve if they are the trustees of the Crown Land reserve and they have to also approve the DA. The facility is built to the NSW standard/guidelines and local parking and other standards. The boating fraternity and the local community all get a great new facility from the funds the boater and maybe the local’s contributed.But wait there is more. Over time the boatramp and pontoons will require maintenance and that will be provided by the Boating Fund as maintenance money undertaken and managed by the Maritime Asset Management Unit.Well, what about the white lines in the car park and the litter bins? They are maintained as part of the Shire’s responsibility from the rates, rubbish and roads budget. Why because they will be used by the local ratepayers and visitors to the Shire. Why do this you may ask? To allocate and build equitable facilities up and down our coast which are in the hands of the people who contributed the money and not at the discretion of the local Council’s GM or infrastructure bureaucracy. Now the only fly in the ointment is the Department of Lands who controls some of our marinas, the foreshore as Crown Land trusts and the near coast upon which the pontoons are built. That may just be a challenge but given the Auditor Generals recent report on their conduct and ICAC watchful eye we may just see a change in their approach. Not protected by a Minister who does not read the detail of the document in-front of him for signature.Now that only leaves the EPA and the Marine Parks and those that followed the election campaign will know that is not a problem here in the South Coast. Well congratulations to our local member. I know you are already back at work but spare a moment to how you can effect real change in your backyard and across the waterways of our state. Harry Watson Smith Batemans Bay Boaters Association


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