PORT Welshpool’s Long Jetty is continuing to deteriorate while it waits for the funds necessary for restoration.
That was the stern warning from Gippsland Ports CEO Nick Murray at last week’s public meeting to discuss issues of concern to Port Welshpool.
Mr Murray said that Gippsland Ports, which manages the jetty on behalf of the government, makes regular inspections and has grave concerns for those members of the public who are continuing to access the jetty despite the warning signs and barriers.
Constructed in the late 1930s, at over 900 metres in length the Long Jetty is the longest timber jetty in Victoria and is listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory as significant for both its curvature and its length. A fire in June 2003, however, partly destroyed the historic structure and for safety reasons it was closed – and it has remained closed ever since, despite numerous pleas from the public for money to be spent on restoring it to at least a standard safe for pedestrians.
The State Government, through Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan, has pledged $5 million to the project and South Gippsland Shire Council up to $1 million, declaring it a priority project of great importance to the shire’s tourism and economic development.
However, latest estimates put the cost of restoring the jetty at $11 million and despite intensive lobbying the federal government has proved reluctant to supply the balance of $5 million.
Mr Murray said that the structure of the jetty is in such a bad way that it presents an unacceptable risk, with the far end particularly treacherous. “It’s quite frightening walking on the structure; it is substantially degraded,” he said, adding that elements of the jetty falling away from time to time posed a further hazard to anyone in the surrounding waters and vessels should keep their distance.
Between the odd fire on the jetty, termite damage and wearing from the elements, the jetty structure is deteriorating further all the time and the repair bill is likely to have increased from the estimates made two or three years ago, warned Mr Murray.
“We will need to do further condition assessments and take fresh costings,” he advised.
David Smith from Port Welshpool received a round of applause at last week’s meeting when he suggested starting the restoration of the jetty with the $6 million already pledged.
“We’d be delighted to do so,” said Mr Murray. “But the reality is both commitments of funding are dependent on federal funding.”
South Gippsland Shire Council CEO Tim Tamlin concurred, adding that once a project was started it was well nigh impossible to get a further grant, so the jetty would never be restored to a satisfactory extent if the project went ahead without a contribution from the federal government.
The federal member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, was not able to attend last Tuesday night’s meeting, but he sent a message to those assembled. He said that he was continuing to fight for the Long Jetty in emails and letters to senior members of government and had spoken to the relevant Minister in person as well as raising the matter in Parliament.