Tasmanian Government scuttles hopes of turning old frigate into an east coast dive wreck


Posted

October 12, 2018 17:42:37

The Tasmanian Government has turned down the Commonwealth’s offer of an ex-Navy frigate which dive enthusiasts had hoped could be scuttled in waters off the state’s east coast, saying it would be too expensive.

Treasurer Peter Gutwein said due diligence had revealed it would cost more than $12 million to turn the HMAS Darwin into a dive wreck.

He said there would also be ongoing costs of about $600,000 per year to monitor and manage the dive site that would not be covered by dive permit receipts.

“The Government believes these resources would be better invested into health, education or other initiatives that would provide a greater benefit to the state,” Mr Gutwein said.

“We thank the Commonwealth for their offer, however, the costs associated with the project have rendered it financially unfeasible.”

The Defence Department offered the 140-metre-long frigate to Tasmania in August in response to a bid from the State Government.

St Helens and District Chamber of Commerce president Peter Paulson has been campaigning to secure a dive wreck for the east coast for 17 years.

In 2016, Tasmania missed out on securing HMAS Tobruk for the same site.

Mr Paulson said he had suspected the Government would reject the Darwin.

“There’s disappointment, obviously, from the very outset, but given the delays that we’ve seen over the last two months since the gifting of the ship, it doesn’t actually surprise me,” he said.

Mr Paulson said he did not understand why the Government would bid for the Darwin and then reject it.

“Having done that and then having been gifted the ship on the ninth of August, I’m just bewildered as to why they’ve got to this point where they’ve now said no to it.

“Why ask for the ship in the first place?”

A ‘blow’ to the community: senator

Tasmanian Liberal senator Jonathan Duniam and Tasmanian Nationals senator Steve Martin had both lobbied the Federal Government to offer the Darwin to Tasmania.

“We are disappointed that the Tasmanian Government has decided to decline the offer of this dive wreck having willingly bid for the vessel not so long ago and all the work the community have put into securing the vessel,” said Senator Duniam.

“This is a blow to the St Helens community, who were excited at the prospect of this new tourism attraction and the possible economic activity it would generate.”

When the Commonwealth first offered the Darwin to Tasmania, Break O’Day Mayor Mick Tucker said it would help build the area’s reputation for adventure tourism.

He said he was disappointed at the Government’s decision but said his council avoided taking a position on the bid.

“We’ve got to go with the Government on this one,” he said.

“If their due diligence has said we can’t afford it as a state, and there’s other things which is more important which is health and education, we’re not going to be a council that stands up and says we’re more important than health.”

Councillor Tucker said it was unfair the Commonwealth had refused to pay for the scuttling of the Darwin, when it had done so for other ex-Navy dive wrecks in the past.

The campaign to secure the ship as a dive wreck had been opposed by some community members and groups, including the North East Bioregional Network, on environmental grounds.

The Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania (TCIT) also opposed the plan.

TCIT CEO Luke Martin supported the Government’s decision.

“If you’re going to spend that kind of money on tourism infrastructure in regional Tasmania, we really need to see a bulletproof business case proposal to show you’re going to get a significant number of visitors to the region and it’s going to be an absolutely iconic product,” he said.

“I just don’t think the dive wreck quite met that mark.”

Topics:

travel-and-tourism,

lifestyle-and-leisure,

government-and-politics,

st-helens-7216,

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