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Echuca's discovery centre opened

The $5 million Port of Echuca Discovery Centre was officially opened by Deputy Premier Peter Ryan on Saturday.


Cutting the ribbon to open the discovery centre are (from left) port director John Webb, Campaspe Shire mayor Ian Maddison, Deputy Premier Peter Ryan, Port of Echuca shipwright Kevin Hutchinson and district historian Helen Coulson.

Eager crowds flooded the new Port of Echuca Discovery Centre on Saturday during an official opening — and is hoped the new venue will attract up to 60,000 people in its first 12 months.

Deputy Premier Peter Ryan attended the opening of the $5million venue along with Campaspe Shire mayor Ian Maddison, Murray Shire mayor Tom Weyrich, Member for Rodney Paul Weller and Discovery Centre project director John Webb, among other key dignitaries.

Gallery: Port of Echuca Discover Centre opening

Following a blessing, Mr Ryan told those gathered he was sure many people had a sense of ownership of the facility and its opening.

‘‘This is a magnificent day, not only for Echuca but for the region more generally and for all the towns and communities up and down the river,’’ he said.

Mr Ryan said Echuca was the base of the ‘‘largest paddlesteamer fleet on the face of this planet’’ and the new centre would represent its history.

‘‘It’s not only the physical structure... it’s about jobs, it’s about tourism,’’ he said.

‘‘It’s reflective of the fact that we have tens of thousands of people coming through the region in relation to the tourism industry.

‘‘It’s an industry that employs more than 3000 people directly and it attracts something in the order of $250million annually into this immediate region.’’

Mr Maddison said the discovery centre was an outcome of six years of growth, design and management.

‘‘(The building) provides an entry point for the port attractions. Tourism is a critical factor to the whole area — and an objective of the Port of Echuca Revitalisation Project is to support and drive tourism,’’ he said.

Kevin Hutchinson, who has spent close to 40 years at the port, working to rebuild and repair paddlesteamers, also attended to assist with the ribbon cutting.

‘‘I get a kick out of the whole thing — to see (some of the machinery) going again,’’ he said.

Echuca-Moama Tourism’s special projects officer Tom Smith, who has worked with Campaspe Shire to oversee the centre’s establishment, said he hoped 58,000 to 60,000 people would pass through the centre in its first year.

He said statistics showed 43 per cent of all visitors to Echuca-Moama visited the Port of Echuca.

He said he would work with accommodation venues and tourist information centre staff to help spread the word about the new attraction.

Mr Smith said he would also look at creating packages ‘‘offering the total experience’’ to encourage international visitors.

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