A proposed ban on wakeboard boats on a popular stretch of water in Victoria has prompted local marine businesses to worry about their futures. According to the Corowa Free Press, the Murray River Draft Erosion Management Plan is due to be released on Friday. It has the local marine trade association concerned about the future of boating in the area.
The ban on wakeboarding and wakesurfing is expected to start next spring and last from three to five years. It is designed, according to state government officials, to combat erosion along the coast between Bundalong and Corowa, a popular area for watersports.
Boating Industry Association of Victoria Advocacy and Membership Services Manager Ben Scullin told the paper that the proposed ban is more of a “social licence issue” than a decision based on sound science. “This is a clear attack on all boating, and skiing could be next. We will fight this,” Scullin said. “I can’t see any actual evidence that suggests they have satisfactorily monitored boating and its actual affects on erosion in this area.”
Brett Butler, a local business owner, said the town depended on boating for its survival. “This ban will have a devastating effect on the community. They need to prove to us the evidence that boating is causing erosion. We are going to fight this,” Butler told the paper.
Peter O’Neil, owner of Skin, Ski and Surf in Yarrawonga, said a three-year restriction could ruin the local community. “It could potentially shut my business,” he said. “It’s not just wakeboarders that won’t come, it’s families who not only wakeboard but waterski, tube and kneeboard. They won’t bother coming here.”
Scullin said the government report did not “assess” the impacts of boating on erosion. “Yet they want to impose a ban on this type of boating that makes up more than sixty per cent of this river use,” he said. “We know that much of the bank erosion is caused by the constant changing river flows, currents and flooding so why the attack on boating?”
Scullin said there has been major flooding in the area over the last seven years. That has caused much of the erosion, along with the constant changing of river flows due to increased releases at Hume Dam.
“The social and economic impact of this ban and possible subsequent bans could cost the economy millions and many jobs along with it,” he told the paper. “It happened in the lower Williams River in NSW and could happen here. We could eventually have a total no-wash boating zone from Corowa all the way to the Yarrawonga bridge.”
Local elected officials also voiced concern about the ban. Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy said the ban on wakeboarding could prove disastrous for tourism in the region. “I have no problem about making decisions based on sound advice but to me this is not based on sound advice,” he said.
McCurdy met with NSW Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister Melinda Pavey in Canberra last week to voice his concerns and seek more detail about the draft plan. He said the meeting was productive with the Minister listening to the concerns he raised regarding the proposal.
“The draft plan acknowledges there are a number of factors which contribute to erosion levels in this section of the river, including the regulation of water levels, and contains a number of water and land-based proposed actions, which may be implemented as a trial which would be monitored and reviewed,” a spokesman for the government told the paper.