SOUTH Gippsland Shire Council is giving consideration to a bold tourism proposal that could shape the future of Corner Inlet.
Council will discuss the Corner Inlet Tourism Development Project as an item of urgent business in its meeting today (Wednesday) in order to comply with state and federal government grant opportunity timeframes.
Council cannot pursue a development of this size – the largest tourism focused development undertaken in the shire – on its own. It will have to seek funding and support from all levels of government to make its vision a reality.
Under discussion will be a recommendation that Council allocate funds of between $1.5 million and $2.1 million as a partnership contribution to express commitment to the project, which is made up of four connected yet distinct developments identified as Priority Projects. They include:
- The Great Southern Rail Trail extension from Foster to Welshpool;
- The restoration of the Port Welshpool Long Jetty;
- A feasibility study including detailed design of a marina at Port Welshpool;
- The dredging of the Toora Channel for boating and recreational activities.
“Corner Inlet is one of the most pristine beautiful locations in the world, and up until now we haven’t been in a position to capitalise on it,” said Chief Executive Officer Tim Tamlin. “Over the past ten years we have carefully managed our financial position back to health, and this now provides us with a window of opportunity to leverage funds to obtain appropriate grants from the Federal Regional Development Australia Fund (which is currently calling for Expressions of Interest) and the State Government Regional Growth Fund.”
Mr Tamlin said that much work has already been done with local community groups and State Government departments to bring these projects to an ‘investment ready’ stage.
“The Gippsland Regional Plan has a clear focus on tourism and development projects, so it is timely that Council takes this synergistic approach and aligns its priorities with those of the state and federal governments to capitalise on funding opportunities and build on the advocacy work we have done over the past year.”
GREAT SOUTHERN RAIL TRAIL
The Great Southern Rail Trail already attracts tourists to the Corner Inlet region. There has long been support for an extension to Welshpool and beyond. The shire has costed the project, which is eligible for funding under the State Government Regional Growth Fund program, at $2,900,000.
PORT WELSHPOOL LONG JETTY
The Member for Gippsland South, Peter Ryan, who is now Deputy Premier of Victoria, made a pre-election commitment of $3 million to restore and re-open the Port Welshpool Long Jetty. Regional Development Victoria has since convened a project control group, which has been working closely with representatives of Gippsland Ports, Department of Transport, South Gippsland Shire Council and community representatives on developing rehabilitation options for consideration by Government. Their initial findings indicate the actual cost to restore the Long Jetty will exceed the $3 million that has been committed, although anticipated costs are yet to be confirmed.
PORT WELSHPOOL MARINA DEVELOPMENT
Preliminary discussions have been held on a marina development in the existing car
park near the former ferry terminal at Port Welshpool on land managed by Council. Shire officers consider that such a development would provide a major economic boost to the town and result in significant flow-on effects such as other new businesses. The development would have a secondary benefit of improved safety, as it would provide another safe haven for vessels. The project would require substantial involvement of the private sector, and extensive consultation with the local community would need to be conducted before it went ahead. The first major step would be a feasibility study with detailed designs to establish the framework and viability of the project. The anticipated cost of this is between $100,000 and $200,000.
DREDGING ACCESS TO TOORA BOAT RAMP
The access channel servicing the Toora boat ramp was initially created in 1992. The channel links the boat ramp with the main Toora Channel. Both the boat ramp and the access channel are located within the Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park and are also within the Corner Inlet Ramsar Wetland area. As a Ramsar site it is deemed to be an area of National Importance under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
The access channel requires maintenance dredging to enable the continuation of safe boat launching and retrieval. At present, the boat ramp is only usable by small boats approximately one hour either side of high tide, thus limiting its effectiveness in providing all tide access to Corner Inlet. Whilst the actual process of dredging the channel is relatively straightforward, the area’s environmental status and the options for a site on which to dispose of dredged material have proven problematic and no dredging has been carried out for some time. These problems are slowly being ironed out.
Proponents of the dredging assert that increasing access to the boat ramp at Toora would be of economic benefit to local businesses in Toora and surrounds from the flow-on produced from increased recreational boating and fishing. It would also reduce impacts on the boat ramp at Port Welshpool by providing an alternative venue for small to mid-size boats.