Politicians weigh into ramp debate

IN LAST week's edition of the Whitsunday Times, mayor Mike Brunker said he considered the region's boat ramps an issue for state government to address, but Whitsunday MP Jan Jarratt maintained the Volunteer Marine Rescue (VMR) ramp at Cannonvale was owned and managed by Council.

Ms Jarratt said she would be happy to work with Council on issues pertaining to this ramp if the necessary approvals for any modifications were obtained.

Ms Jarratt said the ramp at Abel Point was owned by Transport and Main Roads and would be upgraded as part of the Bligh government's "Fishing for the Future" election commitment.

"Funding has been dedicated to extend and widen the boat ramp as well as install a floating walkway. These works were advertised for tender on December 23 last year and will close on February 3 this year. She said parking and other land-based services at the Abel Point Marina boat ramp were the responsibility of the Whitsunday Regional Council (WRC).

Ms Jarratt said she recognised that being out on the water was intrinsic to the Whitsunday identity, and she would therefore lobby the relevant Minister for the provision of additional facilities. Planned improvements include a $245,000 upgrade to the Proserpine River boat ramp and the opening of a public boat ramp at Port of Airlie in the coming months.

"Our commitment remains to improve and extend boat-launching facilities at Shute Harbour, should access to additional land become available in the future," Ms Jarratt said.

LNP candidate for Whitsunday Jason Costigan, who will stand against Ms Jarrat at this year's state election, said the issue of boat ramps had resonated with him straight away, having taken his daughter to the VMR ramp on fishing and turtle-spotting trips when she was growing up.

"When you see how many people love getting on the water in our beautiful part of the world you've got to scratch your head and wonder why they are being treated with utter contempt with second-rate facilities," Mr Costigan said.

"You only have to look at what's been happening in Townsville (with upgraded facilities) to see that our boaties are being shafted. If the LNP was in power I would fight tooth and nail to get the money to fix the problem," he said.

Federal Member for Dawson George Christensen said there was no federal funding that would cover the cost of upgrading our boat ramps "unless of course Council wanted to use the (federal government's) Regional Development Grant".

"There would have to be a case put forward for that, particularly given that the state government is the primary funder of boat ramps," Mr Christensen said.

"Jan Jarratt is the local member, she lives in the Whitsundays and she's also the Minister for Tourism. Surely this is having an impact on family-based tourism in the Whitsundays," he said.

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