HOPES are high that Port Welshpool’s iconic Long Jetty will soon have the funding required for restoration so that it can once again open to the public.
“With the Coalition now in government in Canberra, the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle is in place,” said Roger Harvey, one of the keenest campaigners for the restoration of the jetty.
“Tony Abbott promised to be an infrastructure prime minister. What could be better infrastructure than this?!”
Mr Harvey has a holiday house and some land at Port Welshpool and has been a regular visitor to the district for many years. He is one of many who can see the potential for Port Welshpool and the wider district if the jetty is restored and re-opened.
The depth of community feeling was very much in evidence last Friday, when at the shortest of notice about twenty people – a mixture of permanent residents and holidaymakers – gathered at the jetty to let ‘The Mirror’ know how very much they want the once-popular fishing platform to be restored.
“Restoration of the jetty would expand fishing opportunities in Port Welshpool enormously. At the moment, without the Long Jetty, you really need a boat to get to the best fishing spots, which makes it particularly difficult for kids,” said one jetty campaigner.
Another pointed out that the end of the jetty was a renowned scuba diving location, ideal for spotting a variety of underwater wonders.
“The tourism potential of the jetty is underestimated,” said Mr Harvey. “The ripple effect from not doing anything is huge. Restoration of the jetty would have a very positive effect on the local economy. The Long Jetty is a perfect infrastructure project – it uses local timber, provides local employment and will provide a lasting tourism legacy that will have multiplier effects throughout the local economy.”
Constructed in the late 1930s, at over 900 metres in length Port Welshpool’s Long Jetty is the longest timber jetty in Victoria. It is listed on the Victorian Heritage Inventory as significant for both its curvature and its length. Sadly, however, a fire in June 2003 partly destroyed the historic structure. For safety concerns it was closed – and it has remained closed ever since, despite numerous pleas from the public for money to be spent on restoring it.
Restoration will not come cheaply. Studies have estimated the cost of repairing and re-opening the jetty at upwards of $11 million.
Already, however, the Deputy Premier and Member for Gippsland South Peter Ryan has pledged $5 million on behalf of the State Government. South Gippsland Shire Council has followed this up with a pledge of $1 million and named it a Priority Project.
Mr Ryan announced the $5 million in state funding at a huge public meeting at Port Welshpool in November 2011. At the same time he said that the federal member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, had promised to match the $5 million should the Coalition win the federal election.
Speaking to ‘The Mirror’ last week, however, Mr Broadbent said that prior to the election he had been hopeful that his funding request for the Long Jetty would be granted, but unfortunately it was not ultimately supported by the Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott and his treasurer, Joe Hockey. He had to go to the election without a specific promise of jetty funding.
Mr Broadbent added, however, that once details on the $1 billion Regional Development Fund are released he will apply for funding for the jetty restoration and other projects recommended by local councils in the McMillan electorate.
Roger Harvey had a more positive response from the office of the member for McMillan. “Russell is continuing his commitment to the Long Jetty – as he has done so in the last two elections. Rebuilding the Long Jetty is part of his wish list for the electorate and the pledge of $3m remains in place,” was the advice he received in an August 16 email.
After the election, Mr Harvey wrote back to Mr Broadbent, congratulating him on his re-election to the seat of McMillan and asking when he could expect to see some work on the restoration of the Long Jetty.
“I was very happy to receive an email from your office on 16 August 2013 that confirmed the Long Jetty as being one of your funded policy commitments,” Mr Harvey wrote. “It seems to me that with your re-election the final piece in the jigsaw puzzle is now in place to ensure the Long Jetty is rebuilt. This vital project will create employment, tourism and recreation opportunities and will offer a great and enduring legacy to those who steer its reconstruction.”