by Bob Wonders
Way back in August, 1986, I was a guest of the Queensland Government at the official opening of what was then known as ‘the Southport Bar' scheduled to become the new Gold Coast Seaway.
It was a $40 million development opened by then Premier, the late Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen.
Work started on this project in 1984 and was regarded as a vital program as the bar had a downright nasty reputation for claiming the lives of fishermen, yachtsmen and powerboat skippers who failed to treat it with extreme caution.
As far as local boaters were concerned, the opening of the Gold Coast Seaway heralded a new beginning for the Southport Broadwater.
Sadly, while the new Seaway has certainly made things safer for boats entering and leaving the protected Broadwater, criticism of its depth (or lack of it!), numerous sandbars and the urgent need for dredging is on-going.
Last week the respected regional newspaper The Gold Coast Bulletin gave the State Government ‘both barrels’ over its continued neglect.
In a hard-hitting editorial, headed ‘Disaster in shallows is likely’, the newspaper pointed out that the Gold Coast’s marine industry had been ‘knocking on the door’ of the State Government continually in an attempt to get action on dredging of the Broadwater and adjoining waterways.
As the editorial pointed out, there has been no reasonable answer from the authorities.
The latest issue with Gold Coast waterways is the blockage with sand build-up of the Currumbin Creek mouth, with the area so shallow that even personal water craft run aground and commercial fishing vessels simply cannot operate.
Transport Minister John Mickel’s excuse is the usual one trotted out by politicians – there is no money to correct the situation.
It tallies, the newspaper’s editorial continued, with the department’s 'meagre response' to Broadwater saltation over past years.
The boating industry has a good friend in The Gold Coast Bulletin.
Continuing its editorial, the newspaper stated that the marine industry is worth $1 billion annually to the Gold Coast, supports thousands of jobs and the number of boats on local waterways is growing faster than at any other region in Australia.
'And in case the minister has failed to notice, the Gold Coast manufactures more boats than anywhere else in Australia,' its editorial continued.
It called on the State Government to re-examine its attitude towards the Gold Coast and think about the city’s value to Queensland.
'The Minister and quite possibly the six Labor MPs representing the Gold Coast clearly are unaware of how important dredging is for the Gold Coast,' the editorial ‘thundered.’
Once a ‘boater’s heaven’, the Southport Broadwater is under increasing pressure as an anchorage for small craft through to superyachts and it has become a somewhat dangerous waterway through overcrowding and lack of depth.
Not so long ago I was on that very waterway aboard a local Coast Guard vessel; the helmsman was a ‘coastie’ who knew the area like the back of the proverbial hand.
We ran aground twice!
What chance would a visiting boater have?
Next week we’re going to chat with Joe Goddard, manager of the Southport Yacht Club, one of the organisations seriously affected by the lack of dredging.
Those who do not reside in or visit the Gold Coast may not appreciate the urgency here; but imagine a similar issue at, say, the Sydney Heads.
Imagine if half the vessels negotiating the entrance/exit to Sydney Harbour were to hit bottom.
That and worse is the Gold Coast situation and it’s high time the State Government took action.
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2:25 AM Sun 13 Apr 2008 GMT
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