Fisho’s given the slip
"THE high jump has just been moved from 6 metres to 18 metres."
This is how Fishermen's Co-op general manager Michael Beasley described the slipway situation after a meeting with the Department of Trade and Investment Crown Lands last Tuesday.
The slipway was closed due to contamination from an anti-foulant last August and a remediation action plan is under review by the EPA.
Mr Beasley, like all stakeholders, has been eagerly anticipating approval of the Co-op's operational plan and sign-off for repair work by Crown Lands before the slipway can be restored for surveying and emergency services.
"The Fishermen's Co-op stepped forward as interim operators but this has become economically unviable because as we meet the specified requirements, more onerous requirements are added."
He said the slipway was desperately needed but the Fishermen's Co-op could not afford to shoulder additional costs associated with meeting stricter and stricter rules of operation.
Mr Beasley said the Co-op has already spent $31,000 ensuring the cradle was up to scratch and is now being told new sleepers are needed at their expense.
Coffs Harbour Member Andrew Fraser called on Crown Lands to immediately approve a licence for the Co-op to operate the slipway for emergency slipping.
Mr Fraser said he believed engineering certificates and other requirements have been obtained by the Co-op but bureaucratic bungling and delays means that no slipping can take place.
"The Fishing Co-op provided the department with an operational plan in January but have been told that the plan does not meet the department's requirements and that tenders will need to be called for a new operational plan to be completed," Mr Fraser said.
"This process could take until December.
"Remediation of the site is yet to begin and following discussions with senior Crown Lands officials, it is my belief that this remediation could take months to be completed, meaning the Fishermen's Co-op will not be able to slip vessels in need of urgent repair or survey until 2017, even if they are given permission to operate the slipway," Mr Fraser added.
Mr Fraser said procrastination from the department is absolutely unacceptable and that it is only a matter of time before a major incident occurs where a boat sinks in the harbour.
"Boats currently needing repair have to travel to either Yamba or Port Macquarie, which both have extremely dangerous bars and many of the boats are now so fouled it may be impossible for them to do so.
"I am advised that some boat owners are de-fouling their boats with scuba divers, which is a dangerous practice in itself, both environmentally and physically," Mr Fraser concluded.
"The safety of the boating community is in danger and the government must act," Mr Fraser concluded.
A spokesman from the Department of Primary Industries said the Co-op agreed to meet the licence terms and conditions, which include demonstrating the slipway (rails and sleepers) are fit for use by submitting an engineering report.
Referring to the operational plan, the spokesman said the plan submitted earlier this year did not adequately address safety and environmental issues.
He said the department met with the Co-op this week to offer assistance in revising its operational plan to meet the required standards.
"The department will continue to offer assistance to the Co-op so that they can meet their obligations under an agreed licence before commencing management of the slipway."
Responding to the responsibility of costs, the spokesman said: "The Co-op has accepted the terms of the licence and the obligations that come with the licence."