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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Warwick Turner speaks out

Today, Echuca's Warwick Turner outlines his thoughts on the Port of Echuca.

August 6, 2014 3:08am

The way the Port of Echuca is run could change significantly from next year as part of a review into its future management.

Campaspe Shire council has spent $50,000 to engage an independent company to review management of the port and make recommendations into its future structure.

Council’s people and place general manager Paul McKenzie said the review, to be completed early next year, would look at a range of models, including those under which the Australian National Maritime Museum could operate.

The full story is in today’s Riv.

Below is a letter from port veteran and former councillor Warwick Turner which is referenced in the story.

 

‘‘When I served on the Echuca City Council in the early 1990s, management issues of the Port of Echuca regularly appeared on the agenda.

Council often struggled with financial aspects which were regularly in conflict with developing a genuine heritage-based attraction, which portrayed the port’s past in an accurate and meaningful way.

The port’s persona needed careful and sensitive management that truly balanced the need for a display that had great cultural value to the community and financial imperatives.

In those days, the cost of running the port was mostly covered by the income and there was no financial burden upon the ratepayer.

Over time, it became clear to me that the port’s financing and development was beyond the capacity of the ratepayers and a new management model was required.

The Port of Echuca, wholly owned by Campaspe Shire, is considered by many to be a national icon.

Council have been successful in obtaining capital works grants, but this source of income is spasmodic and not guaranteed, especially as pressures grow from other community needs.

If its full potential is to be reached, it is clearly questionable that 36,000 ratepayers should somehow fund the future.

The port running costs are already costing ratepayers in the order of $500,000 per annum (financial statements appear impossible to be seen by the public eye).

What is planned and who will fund the conservation/restoration of the Barge ADA languishing at the Moama Slipway, the two log barges (one of which has been destroyed as a result of council works), the steam locomotive, the log slip and winch, buildings that need major rectification, the out of commission PS Alexander Arbuthnot, the rebuilding of the PS Success and the bow of the Murrumbidgee?

What is the future of the railway built to serve the port but virtually unused?

What should happen, as a national icon, is a source be found for recurrent funding with a capital works component from a national provider.

This source may be available through the Australian National Maritime Museum.

The concept of setting up an outpost museum is not new, with a number of nations following this path.

The ANMM Act, specifically enunciates the requirement to nurture inland maritime heritage and what better way to do this than to take over the Port of Echuca on behalf of the nation?

Needless to say, ANMM would require additional funds from the Commonwealth treasury to do this.

Enormous benefits could flow from such an arrangement.

Council and ratepayers should be relieved of the management and financial burden and place the port on a national footing.’’

In regards to Mr Turner’s concerns about boats and barges, this is the response from Campaspe Shire people and places general manager Paul McKenzie.

‘‘The concept plan recognised the potential value from restoration and refurbishment of Barges D26 and ADA in the first instance, along with the relocation of the Allison to further south along Murray Esplanade.

‘‘The B22 was not a priority for restoration as council cannot afford to restore all barges to operating standard.

‘‘The B22 will instead be incorporated into the Riverboats and Shipwrights Trail as a static display.

‘‘This trail will meander through the Onion Patch and provide some interpretation of the B22. Council has funded the restoration of the hull of the PS Alexander Arbuthnot in 2014-15 and scheduling is being finalised.’’

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