After initially advising that the pontoon would be removed “temporarily” for large scale works to the adjacent Fisherman’s Wharf, Parks Victoria, which manages the area, has confirmed its permanent removal for “safety reasons” and to appease neighbouring residents.
“The pontoon was originally installed to provide access for Queenscliff Lonsdale Yacht Club members to raise and lower masts for passing under the Swan Island bridge,” said Graeme Davis, District Manager Port Phillip, Western Port.
“For some time, the pontoon had been used for activities it wasn’t designed for, creating a safety risk. Parks Victoria has also received numerous complaints from local residents.
“Boat users can use the nearby Queenscliff boat launching facility, at Queenscliff Harbour for access, and once works are completed, the Fisherman’s Wharf and Locke - Cayzer slipway,” he said.
Under plans to redevelop the wharf area, the slipway will be restricted to small craft, such as kayaks.
The decision, made without warning, effectively extends the monopoly of private company Queenscliff Harbour Pty Ltd over waters on the Port Phillip side of Swan Bay bridge and has angered local fishermen and vessel owners.
While anglers will be able to use Fisherman’s Wharf for free, boat owners will be forced to pay.
“The pontoon is used for many purposes - recreational fishing and boat unloading, commercial fishermen also regularly use it, large numbers of scuba divers load and unload from it,” said Queenscliff Fishing Club member Andy Doolan.
“It’s the only public jetty this side of the Swan Island Bridge which allows larger and taller vessels a place to stop.”
The decision to remove the pontoon took Bellarine MP Lisa Neville and Queenscliff Council off guard
“This issue has just been raised with me,” Ms Neville said when contacted by The Rip. “I note that Parks Victoria have safety concerns with the current us, but I will follow the Minister up with the Minister.”
Mayor Bob Merriman said he had not been informed of the decision, but understood the pontoon and the waters it was in were outside of the harbour’s long-term lease area.
“We will definitely be seeking clarification,” he said.