Yachties outraged over boat ramp closure

RESIDENTS living on-board boats in Shute Harbour as well as those running tenders have voiced their frustration at the closure of the boat ramp during a long-awaited restoration project.

The boat ramp will be closed for 18 months while work on Shute Harbour is under way, during which time there will be no public access.

This will create obstacles for those living on boats in the harbour to reach the mainland while also impacting those who wish to launch their boat for day tours or fishing trips.

However, many community members who rely on the Shute Harbour boat ramp to reach the mainland are outraged the ramp will be closed for the entirety of the restoration.

Trevor Yuskan, who has had a mooring at Shute Harbour for 18 years, is among them and was worried the closure would affect both access for those living on boats as well as the ability for casual users to keep their vessels up to legal standards.

"As a mooring holder, we have a legal obligation from Maritime Safety Queensland to keep a seaworthy vessel," he said.

"The old saying is a leaky boat never sinks and that's because you're always checking it."

The closure of the Shute Harbour boat ramp means Mr Yuksan would not be able to regularly access or check his boat to ensure it is up to standard.

Muddy Puddle was offered as an alternate mooring point, however Mr Yuksan said it would not be a viable option for him due to inconsistent tides and the need for a four-wheel drive to safely access the area.

Mr Yuksan appealed to Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan for support, who was also angered by the closure.

 

Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan said the closure of the boat ramp will have a negative affect on tourism as well as the community. Image: Jason Costigan
Member for Whitsunday Jason Costigan said the closure of the boat ramp will have a negative affect on tourism as well as the community. Image: Jason Costigan

Mr Costigan said the closure had a negative impact for residents as well as tourists visiting the area for fishing and sightseeing ventures.

"People I met with on the weekend and others who shared their views were under the impression that the boat ramp would continue to be open in this process," he said.

"I just can't understand why we have to shut the whole place down during this process, we didn't do it with the development at the airport … if we told people to take their flights out of Hamilton and Mackay during the development it would have started world war three.

"We should make sure those people who live on boats and spend money in our community are respected.

"When they want to come and get their groceries, their supplies and their booze, they have to wade through mud and dodge the rogue croc to get to shore, and I'm going to call bullsh-t on that."

Whitsunday Regional Council Disaster Recovery Project director Trevor Williams said the closure was due to safety reasons surrounding the restoration.

"There's 85,000 tonnes of brick to go in the seawall and 30m-long piles that need placing," he said.

"It's too unsafe to keep it open during this time.

"We understand that it's an inconvenience to their lives, but we're also ensuring that we don't take lives."

Residents are angered by closures of the boat ramp at Shute Harbour. Image: Jason Costigan
Residents are angered by closures of the boat ramp at Shute Harbour. Image: Jason Costigan

There are exceptions to the closure for tourism operators including Scamper, Island Transfers and Salty Dog Sea Kayaking as well as smaller operators approved by the WRC chief executive officer.

Mr Williams said the council advised those with moorings on Shute Harbour of the changes via social media and the Harbour Master was advised in December following a council meeting on November 13 last year.

While Mr Williams understood the frustrations of those affected by the closure, he said it would simply be too unsafe and would push construction back even further by allowing access.

"We acknowledge it's inconvenient and undesirable but that's a fact and it's what we've stuck with," he said.

"We apologise for the inconvenience, the decision hasn't been taken lightly and it was debated in council, but Shute Harbour has a very tight deadline.

"Every time we allow someone access to that place it slows the program down."

Beyond Muddy Puddle, other options lie in private negotiations for mooring or using the facilities at Port of Airlie.

A 10m monohull private rental at Port of Airlie costs about $8000 per year, whereas twelve-month occupancy at Shute Harbour costs $184.95.

Alternatively, the dock that Whitsunday Rent A Yacht operate from are also offering to assist other mooring and harbour users for a fee on a case-by-case basis.

Customer service manager at Whitsunday Rent A Yacht James Middleton said while they weren't affected by the restoration project, he could understand the frustrations of those who were.

"Access to our site hasn't change at all, boats can come and go from our dock," he said.

"Whitsunday Rent A Yacht, Sunsail Whitsundays and the Shute Harbour Slipway are open for business and unaffected by council's redevelopment.

"Additionally, we are offering to assist boat owners that use Shute Harbour moorings with access to our dock for an extra fee."

The restoration will include a two-floor terminal, cafe facilities, a new carpark, new public amenities, landscaping and three finger pontoon jetties, including a designated recreational fishing pontoon and fuel facilities on the other two pontoons.


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