Hundreds of people representing marine rescue volunteers, professional and recreational fishermen, boat users, industry bodies, tourism operators and community members attended a rally to save the Canal Rocks boat ramp from being closed by the state government.
A feasibility study was conducted which ultimately sought funding to address safety issues at the boat ramp, but it was decided the structure could be too dangerous or unsteady.
Environment Minister Stephen Dawson said the independent study was conducted by port and coastal engineers which explored several options for improving the facility.
“The report concluded that without construction of substantial breakwaters, continued use of the facility presents a significant risk to public safety because for the vast majority of the time (estimated at 90 to 95 per cent), it does not comply with the current Australian standard,” he said.
“The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions is consulting with the City of Busselton, Naturaliste Volunteer Marine Rescue and the Department of Transport with the view to maintaining restricted access only to the facility in the case of a marine emergency.
“A decision regarding the future of the site will be communicated to the public as soon as possible.”
Mr Dawson said other risk mitigation options such as construcing a breakwater were not considered viable in the foreseeable future given the difficult financial position facing the state government.
“DBCA will continue to work with the City of Busselton and the Shire of Augusta-Margaret River regarding the management and maintenance of the other boating facilities on the West Coast,” he said.
Since the announcement was made marine rescue groups, industry bodies, fishing groups and community members have been left dumbfounded over the decision with many stating ‘commonsense should prevail’ when using the boat ramp.
Recfishwest operations minister Leyland Campbell said the Australian standards used in the study - that the boat ramp did not meet - were Australian standards for marinas.
“It does not look like a marina to me,” he said.
“If we applied those same standards to all boat ramps in WA not a single one would meet the standards, the standards say a wave height of 20 centimetres, anything more than that is too dangerous.”
Mr Leyland said it was a “no-brainer” that the ramp should remain open which was demonstrated by the strong support from the different groups at the rally.
“This is probably one of the dumbest ideas I have heard come out of the new department and it is certainly something we are not going to stand for,” he said.
An experienced mariner for more than 40 years, City of Busselton mayor Grant Henley said any boat ramp in Australia could be hazardous.
Mr Henley said anyone who went out to sea did so with the skill, knowledge, background and forewarning on where to go on a certain day and which ramp to use.
“That is commonsense and we should not be shutting down anything due to a lack of commonsense,” he said.
The city undertook a strategy in the Capes region to determine the need for boat ramps and found there was a “huge gap” that failed to meet the needs of volunteer sea rescue and fishermen.
After Parks and Wildlife staff told the council the boat ramp would be shut, Mr Henley said they were “gobsmacked.”
“Immediately, the entire council agreed it was not good enough, we went to Vasse MP Libby Mettam who said, it was not good enough,” he said.
“We went back to the Minister through Libby, he said maybe it’s not good enough, that’s a start – now you tell that to your staff Minister.”
Vasse MP Libby Mettam said a meeting was scheduled with the Environment Minister and stakeholders from the region on Saturday to address the issue.
Ms Mettam said it was not not the final decision and she was confident with the level of community support shown at the rally that the “ridiculous decision” to close the ramp could be overturned.
She said any partial or full closure of the ramp would have an immense impact on users.
“My primary concern is for the Naturaliste Volunteer Marine Rescue group and their ability to utilise the boat ramp, particularly going into the summer,” she said.
“I believe it is a 20 nautical mile trip around this stretch of coast and this particular ramp provides a critical link.
“Removing this vital access point would mean the group would have to launch from Quindalup and go around the Cape to respond to emergencies on the western coast.
“This exposes rescuers to added risk as they travel around the Cape and also has the potential to put hours on a rescue, time which is often crucial in an emergency.”
Ms Mettam said any closure of this boat ramp would also put additional pressure on other boat ramps in the region, potentially creating further safety issues.