They built it. Welshpool community representative Paul MacPhail, left, and Danny O’Brien, second left, congratulate the builders Tom Wilcox of TMC and Peter Philip of SMC Marine on the success of their project. M302619

ONLY time will tell whether the $11 million spent on the Long Jetty at Port Welshpool was money well spent.
But already the signs are good.
At the official opening of the Long Jetty, and fine array of interpretative signage last Friday, June 21, Acting South Gippsland Shire CEO Bryan Sword revealed that 25,000 people had visited the jetty since pedestrian counters were put in place last February.
That number doesn’t include an estimated 50,000 who walked the 762 metre jetty during a ‘soft opening’ over the summer holidays.
It looks set to be an on-going tourism drawcard, a catalyst for other developments and is already a great source of pride for the isolated coastal community. So, was it worth it?
Many at the opening event last Friday afternoon were under no illusions.
Speakers in order said:
• Shire CEO Tim Tamlin welcomed guests and acted as MC for the day.
• Gippsland South MLA Danny O’Brien heaped praise on his predecessor Peter Ryan and Federal counterpart Russell Broadbent for committing $5 million each and the shire for its $1 million. “It’s amazing how many people have been here already. It’s been huge for business turnover.”
• Acting shire CEO Bryan Sword thanked former mayor Jeanette Harding for attending, acknowledged the leading role played by Gippsland Ports. “The community knew this project would work, we backed them and it’s put the area back on the map,” he said.
• Granddaughter of jetty builder Patrick Kean, Kath Hunt, provided the historical perspective.
• Gippsland Ports CEO Chris Waites described how the project came in under budget.
• Former Gippsland South MLA Peter Ryan said he was delighted with his involvement, expected the jetty would fit into tours to the Prom, Penguins and other local attractions and predicted it would be his last official function after 27 years in politics.
• Former mayor Jeanette Harding made a pitch for funding for an aquarium to complete the job, thanking the region’s fishermen and others for backing the locals’ idea.
• Welshpool community representative Paul MacPhail gabe the local perspective.
One of the main speakers at the opening of the Long Jetty was Grattan Mullett, General Manager Culture Gunai Kurnai Land and Water Corporation. He gave the welcome to country and spoke about the First Peoples who frequented the area, praising the authorities for the erection of informative signage which not only covered the history of the Long Jetty but also carried details about the area’s traditional owners.
Many of those, among a crowd of about 80 people adjourned to the former ferry terminal for afternoon tea.
The event wasn’t without its awkward moments with three “sacked” councillors attending the event, but not in an official capacity after the introduction of a bill into State Parliament to dismiss the council.
Don Hill, still officially mayor until 12 midnight on Friday, played no part in the opening event. Despite stumping up $5m each, neither the State nor Federal government offered a minister to perform the opening.