by Michael Giles

A LOT of people want to go fishing.
In fact as Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs sprawl inexorably towards us, more and more people are going to want to launch a boat in Western Port and all the way along the coast to Port Welshpool and beyond.
But as things stand, boat launching facilities in both Bass Coast and South Gippsland shires are woefully inadequate, to the point of being dangerous.
And there needs to be a lot of thought put into it.
The problem should certainly be a feature of the South Gippsland Shire Council’s new Coastal Strategy and it’s good to see the shire setting aside $55,000 to do that work.
But it goes beyond that to the point where Bass Coast and South Gippsland should be applying for a joint grant to study the issue and then seriously consider forming a partnership to implement the recommendations.
It’s not enough to say that there’s already too many boats and recreational fishers coming into this area and the newcomers will have to find somewhere else to go.
Everyone who wants to buy a boat and fish has the same rights as anyone else and you can’t blame people wanting to get out of the metro rat race for a few hours of tranquility out on the water.
They have a right to access our coastal waters, the locals need to accept that and the authorities have a responsibility to provide appropriate facilities so that they can do so safely and efficiently.
The situation that has been allowed to develop at Walkerville North and South, for example, is exactly the type of situation that needs to be avoided where one foreshore management committee is making decisions on recreational fishing access in isolation of a broader plan to accommodate this important pastime.
Certainly, at the end of the day, the narrow beach access at Walkerville North and South might be the wrong place for large-scale boat launching and retrieval… but where can it be accommodated?
Should the authorities throw their lot in with the well-resourced, would-be developers of Mahers Landing at Inverloch and develop a strategy for safe boating access via Anderson Inlet? Or is there a better place between Newhaven and Port Welshpool?
A major upgrade to facilities at these two sites should also be considered.
How well do we look after boat visitors and boat owners in this area and do we know the economic and social impacts this sector brings?
It’s a recreational sector that deserves some serious thought and serious investment by government if this area is to serve as the playground of eastern suburbs.