TOORA’S loss will be Port Welshpool’s gain, as South Gippsland Shire Council (subject to Department of Transport approval) reallocates funding of $113,136 from the Toora Boat Ramp Access Channel Dredging Project to the Port Welshpool Public Jetty Upgrade Project.
However, the dredging project is far from being abandoned. Council will pursue further flora and fauna investigation on a dredged spoil site at Toora using the remaining budget allocated funds of $56,959; and the dredging project remains, as a priority project, part of Council’s Corner Inlet Tourism Development Project.
With the advice from shire officers being that the only alternative was to lose the funding entirely, councillors voted unanimously at last Wednesday’s council meeting for the reallocation of funding from the dredging project at Toora to the public jetty upgrade at Port Welshpool.
At present access to the channel at Toora is very limited. It requires maintenance dredging to enable boat launching and retrieval in all tides. Both boat ramp and access channel are located in the environmentally sensitive Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park and also within the Corner Inlet Ramsar Wetland, an area of international importance. Finding a suitable site for the dredged spoil has been a sore point – and a costly exercise – for several years. Several flora and fauna studies have already been carried out and the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities (DSEWPC) requires Council to undertake further studies.
Cr Jeanette Harding said that she realised the decision to take the money away from the dredging project would upset a lot of people “but there is nothing else we can do”. There have already, she pointed out, been several stays of execution, but now Council had to act or it would lose the funding entirely.
Cr Harding expressed confidence that the dredging of the boat channel would go ahead before the end of the year, saying that this was what she had been told by a politician – although she would not name names.
Last November Council engaged engineering consultants Pitt and Sherry to undertake the design of the boat ramp and public jetty at Port Welshpool. A condition assessment report of the jetty indicated that it would need to be replaced as the condition had reached a point where rehabilitation would not be enough. It suggested that the jetty was likely to fail within the next 18 to 24 months, so funds were required as a matter of urgency.
Cr Mohya Davies agreed with C Harding that the dredging of the boat channel had been keenly sought by the people of Toora for a long time. She said she knew the boat ramp brought people to the area and would bring even more if access was more than just tidal. However, she said that she also knew that the Port Welshpool jetty got “incredibly busy” and it was important to move money across to its upgrade.
“Boating tourism in Corner Inlet is the way of the future,” she said. “People from Melbourne and the Latrobe Valley travel across to launch their boats here. Let’s make the most of that.”
Council will also seek approval from the DOT to reallocate $195,864 from the Port Welshpool Boat Ramp Car Park project in 2013/14 to the Port Welshpool Public Jetty Upgrade project in 2012/13.