THE State Government has rejected funding for a marine rescue vessel based at Port MacDonnell.
Member for Mount Gambier Troy Bell put forward a motion to Parliament recognising the “important assistance” professional and recreational fishers play in emergency marine safety situations within the region.
Mr Bell also moved the State Government “provide funding” for a marine rescue unit - incorporating a rescue vessel - to be based at Port MacDonnell.
Speaking to Parliament, Mr Bell said a proposal for a marine rescue service was first introduced in the region after fishermen rescued two men whose vessel had capsized 15 kilometres off Port MacDonnell’s coast.
“Since that event in 2011, there have been numerous instances where the community has depended on the goodwill of local fishers to assist in rescue operations, some of which ended tragically,” Mr Bell said.
Mr Bell listed a number of incidents which happened in 2014, 2016, 2021 and 2022.
“These incidents are just a selection from the past decade in which professional and recreational fishermen have played a crucial role in rescue operations, with many others not re-ported publicly,” he said.
“There has been a longstanding agreement between local police and the community of Port MacDonnell to conduct these rescues, and the professional fishing fleet has always selflessly come forward to offer their time when they have been called to do so.
”He said the community “could not rely on the goodwill of others” forever with rescue operations “outside the normal duties” of both recreational and professional fishermen.
“This stretch of coastline has proven to be treacherous, yet the closest rescue vehicle is located in Kingston,” Mr Bell said.
“A two hour boat ride away, not only are we relying on commercial and recreational vessels that are not designed for this purpose but we are also relying on local fishermen who have not been trained to perform rescues safely and who may not have the necessary equipment.
“It is time to address this issue and establish a marine rescue unit at Port MacDonnell, equipped with a built-for-purpose vessel and trained volunteers.”
Member for MacKillop Nick McBride also spoke to the chamber in support of the motion, stating there had also been examples of divers “getting separated from their boats” be-tween Kingston and Nora Creina.
“As we know, regional communities rely on volunteers and with such an enormous ocean, their contribution in search and rescue is vital,” Mr McBride said.
“Even minor calls for assistance can be costly, breakdowns may require a tow and the closest vessel may be a fishing vessel which has to interrupt its fishing schedule to go and rescue the vessel and its crew.”
Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick also commented on the motion, requesting an amendment to call on the State Government to investigate a “State Emergency Service rescue presence in Port MacDonnell” while also ensuring there was “adequate support for marine rescue services” along the state’s coast and inland waters.
Members voted on Mr Pederick’s amendment which was denied, before voting on a further amendment made by Member for Elizabeth Lee Odenwalder which passed.
The final motion read to “recognise the calls for a Marine Rescue Fund to ensure fishers are compensated for their services and time in situations assisting emergency services”.
Mr Bell said he was “disappointed” with the State Government’s approach and was looking for commitment moving forward.
He said he looked forward to working with the government to create a path moving forward and thanked the Grant District Council for its continued support.