Rescue cash knocked back

Wednesday October 25, 2023

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.