DURING a brief patch of sunshine in severely inclement weather, the Member for the Federal seat of McMillan, Russell Broadbent, visited Long Jetty at Port Welshpool last Thursday to renew the Federal Coalition’s promise to contribute towards the restoration of the historic jetty to safe pedestrian access if it won the August 21 election.
This time around, Mr. Broadbent vowed that $3 million would be available for the project, which he envisioned as being undertaken in cooperation with South Gippsland Shire and the local community.
The announcement was almost a replay of a commitment he made in October 2007 for the previous Federal election (prior to the significant fire damage suffered by the jetty in the interim), when Mr. Broadbent offered $3.5 million to restore Long Jetty for recreational and commercial usage.
Asked about the difference in promised funding amounts, Mr. Broadbent said that on each occasion he had “asked the community what they needed and they had advised him of the amount they wanted.”
In the sunny 2007 photograph, Mr. Broadbent was flanked by Gippsland South (State) member and Nationals leader Peter Ryan, Port Anthony developer John Anthony of Ancon Australia, then-Mayor Heather Bligh, Cr Kieran Kennedy, Port Welshpool Working Group (PWWG) Treasurer Lyn Lucas, and various members of PWWG and the Welshpool and District Advisory Group (WDAG).
Bob McDonald, who has been researching and reporting on possibilities for Long Jetty’s restoration and use on behalf of WDAG, said that $3 million matched the amount that engineering firm Marine and Civil has estimated to be the cost to restore Long Jetty to basic use.
Marine and Civil has offered a construction partnership option to WDAG for development of an underwater observatory in the event that Long jetty is reopened for public access.
Present for Mr Broadbent’s announcement were representatives of Port Welshpool Working Group (PWWG), WDAG, South Gippsland Shire and residents of both Welshpool and Port Welshpool.
WDAG President Paul Macphail described Mr Broadbent’s pledge as a “very strong and positive step forward to doing something.”
He continued, “More detailed costings would have to be done but I am very hopeful we could get it up and running on $3 million.
“I am also very hopeful that whoever wins government will support it.”
PWWG’s Lyn Lucas said that if the jetty was restored by whoever was in power as the new Federal Government, it would allow the opportunity for the proposed underwater observatory to be developed.
She explained that after paying back the costs for its own construction, the income from an observatory could then provide income towards the jetty’s ongoing maintenance, which she initially envisaged would be funded by the State Government.
HISTORY AND ECONOMICS
Mr Broadbent stated that restoration of the jetty, which was originally built during the depression years, was vital not just for Corner Inlet but to the wider South Gippsland region.
“It would open the jetty up once again for recreational anglers, particularly those with disabilities, and it would also open up the opportunity for the development of an underwater observatory that promises to attract many tourists to the area.”
Mr. Broadbent added that Long Jetty had played an important part in the development of South Gippsland and had assisted in various aspects of national defence.
Coastal Promontory Ward Cr Mohya Davies reminded that Long Jetty’s reopening was one of South Gippsland Shire’s priority projects that would potentially be important for stimulating tourism and jobs throughout the year, regardless of season.
Council’s Tourism Coordinator Christian Stefani anticipated that $3 million would be the minimum required to make Long Jetty accessible to the public but would still provide an economic boost to the region.
“There would be a greater economic multiplier effect if the underwater observatory could be developed,” he said.
“The draft of the business case to reopen Long Jetty has been received by Council and supports our expectations and assumptions of what restoring Long Jetty could do.
“The final report will be put to a coming Council meeting, probably in September,” he said.
Mr. Broadbent paid tribute to the PWWG for its work in having Long Jetty heritage- listed.
He believed that without their efforts, the jetty would most likely have been dismantled.
In turn, Mr Macphail thanked Mr Broadbent and also his State colleague Peter Ryan for their “fantastic enthusiasm and support for the Long Jetty project.”
When queried if WDAG had received any messages of support for Long Jetty from the Federal Australian Labour Party, Mr Macphail said nothing had been heard at this stage but he would equally welcome a pledge of support from that quarter.
Mr Broadbent advised that the Long Jetty funding announcement was be the only one he would be making in South Gippsland during the election campaign.