Many will be unaware the State Government has launched a Draft Victorian Recreational Boating Strategy, which is open for community feedback (until September 20). This document requires significant local feedback from East Gippslanders.
If I am to paraphrase my concerns, the Strategy, which prioritises future government investment in the boating sector, does not adequately reflect its importance to our region.
It is city centric!
The perfect example is the inequity around government funding of boat ramp maintenance isn’t addressed.
The background is this. Many metro councils charged boat ramp and car park fees for – by their own admission – maintenance of the launching facilities.
The State Government, in an effort to shore up its voters in the marginal bayside seats, announced it would fund the councils to remove the fees. They made it free for boaters by subsidising the councils for the fees they charged.
Here’s the problem. Councils like The Hobsons Bay and Frankston now receive hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for the maintenance of their boat ramps, they have two each!
East Gippsland Shire Council with 24 ramps, and Wellington with 18, receive diddlysquat. Fair?
The smaller rural councils with a lesser rate base and more facilities receive nothing, while the wealthier inner-city councils with the large rate bases and less facilities get major support.
The stupidity of this is the decision on who received what is maintenance funding, was made on which councils previously charged fees – how ridiculous.
East Gippsland and Wellington Shire Councils, which funded maintenance costs at their 42 ramps to try and keep their regions visitor friendly, get punished.
Here is another example. One of the key points of the document states:
The Port Phillip and Western Port catchment, where the largest concentration of boaters resides, should be given significant priority
At a time when congestion is causing massive issues in these locations and Government is promoting decentralisation, surely, we should be priority funding first class facilities at alternate locations, like the Gippsland Lakes.
A big part of the answer to city ramp congestion is to provide facilities at country locations not currently hemmed in by development.
If we upgrade boating facilities at locations out of Melbourne and make it an enjoyable experience, more people will come and make a weekend of it. This takes the pressure off the metro facilities and boosts regional economies.
On congestion around Port Phillip and Western Port, the document, which is full of overarching fluffy statements, simply says government will expand facilities where possible and consider other opportunities. There’s no detail.
The major issue here is car parking, there is not enough. Unless you are going to bulldoze homes, or build a multi storey car park, the reality is you are not going to make much difference at most locations.
To be fair, the document does suggest some Gippsland Lakes investment, but not nearly enough. It should be the major focus along with other rural areas.
I could go on with more city centric focus examples and although space prevents me, you get the picture.
Pleasingly, I believe East Gippsland Shire has seen it is being short-changed and is taking up the opportunity to highlight this and the Municipal Association of Victoria, which represents all Victorian councils, also has major issues with the document.
I encourage all who have an interest in boating to make a submission. Read the document for yourself and make up your own mind. It is easily found by googling “Victorian Recreational Boating Strategy”.
At a time when we are coming out of drought, fire and COVID, we deserve at least our fair share of government funds (probably more than our fair share), but this document short changes us. It’s another case of Dan thinking the state stops at Pakenham.