Inverloch’s Roger Thorrowgood is concerned about a proposal to change boating rules on Anderson Inlet reigniting conflict between jet skiers and other inlet users.

THE issue of high speed vessels, let’s cut to the chase – jet skis – on Inverloch’s Anderson Inlet is on the agenda once again.  Gippsland Ports recently called for submissions regarding possible changes to the speed restrictions and ‘no boating’ zones introduced this summer and announced a public meeting to discuss the matter.  Local resident Roger Thorrowgood is concerned that the proposed alterations will act against public safety and the enjoyment of the inlet by all users. “I ran a heavily subscribed petition last year asking for jet skis in particular to be restricted to a designated area of Anderson Inlet, given that they can travel above 100km/h on a small and busy waterway. “The local police have also raised serious concerns over this issue for several years,” Mr Thorrowgood said. “After a meeting with interest groups and local police, Gippsland Ports came up with an admirable response.” Two separate no vessel zones were established within the inlet late last year including an 800m exclusion zone around Ayr Creek and another 335m in the vicinity of the Angling Club. Gippsland Ports’ proposal would see the ‘no boating zone’ reduced to 250m and 210m respectively.  The five knot speed restriction was also moved back from 100m to 200m from the average high tide mark for most of the inlet adjacent to the town last year, thereby conforming to normal rules for Victorian coastal waters, but this may also be shifted back. Mr Thorrowgood notes that this has resulted in a summer season without any major reported safety incidents thus far, compared to the previous summer when the same could not be said. “Last year we had a swimmer, a young father, missed by one metre by a jet ski travelling at speed, and many swimmers in fear that they might be next,” he said.  “This year, by and large, we have had a far safer and more peaceful environment directly because of these restrictions.   “I have spoken to many jet skiers who have had no problem with the regulations once they have been pointed out. “What concerns me with the proposed changes is that they would reintroduce jet skis and other high speed vessels to the Ayr Creek area, which is a traditional swimming spot secluded from the general water traffic dating right back to the old swimming baths,” Mr Thorrowgood said. “Given the amount of beach available and the power of modern water craft, surely it’s an asset to have one small part which is vessel free, especially when jet ski users have full access to the prime area between Pensioner’s Point and the Yacht Club.” He said an even bigger concern is the proposal to once again have an open speed limit just 100m from the high tide mark across the Inlet.  “The dangers of this are obvious. Ayr Creek at low tide and jet skis could once again operate without restriction just offshore,” Mr Thorrowgood said. “And further down the inlet the situation is even worse. Sand banks are now extending from the shore line to beyond this 100m mark. The result would be an open speed limit coming directly up to a shoreline which is regularly attracting swimmers at low tide. “I don’t think this particular set up is fully appreciated. It would be back to the very worst of the old days. It’s so much more comfortable now for beach users just looking for a swim. It was out of control prior to the restrictions. “There couldn’t be any better example of that than permitting vessels to travel at 100km/h hard against a low tide waterline. A miss by one metre was close enough. We don’t need any more incidents on the inlet.” Mr Thorrowgood believes that there is no reason to change from the present situation which he believes has served well this summer, and urges those who think likewise to send a submission to Gippsland Ports and to also attend the public meeting.

Gippsland Ports

GIPPSLAND Ports CEO Nick Murray said the proposed changes are open to public input and will be modified if there are acceptable alternative arrangements that achieve a fair go for all interest groups. Mr Murray accepted that Anderson Inlet was a challenging environment. “Anderson Inlet is a difficult area to manage due to its dynamic nature with frequent changes to channels, its increasing popularity particularly in holiday periods, the increasing popularity of personal water craft and wind powered vessels such as kites and wind surfers,” Mr Murray said. “Gippsland Ports is challenged with trying to accommodate and provide some balance in regulating the often competing interests of various user groups which include wind surfers, beach users, powered vessel operators and sailors. “Gippsland Ports does not have proprietorship of all of the solutions to reconciling competing interests and the proposed further changes to the vessel operating and zoning rules are a reflection of Gippsland Ports seeking to provide a manageable balance of controls,” Mr Murray said. Submissions can be sent to Gippsland Ports Committee of Management Inc. PO Box 388, Bairnsdale, Vic, 3875, closing on March 8.  Mr Thorrowgood can be contacted on 0418 583 090 for further information. The public meeting will be held at 10am on March 12 at the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club.