A PROPOSED trial that would see wakeboarding banned along a 52km stretch of the Murray River for up to three years to combat river erosion could be extended to other areas if it proves successful.
The trial ban, which would start after Easter, was recommended in a Murray Darling Basin Authority draft report for a section of river between Bundalong, east of Yarrawonga, and Corowa.
And although there are no plans to widen the ban, Roads and Maritime Services principal manager south operations and compliance Mike Hammond said it could eventually include other areas, such as Echuca-Moama, if there was a need for it.
‘‘It depends on the outcome of the trial. It may be discussed,’’ he said.
‘‘If it is a great success, we are certainly not going to consider other restrictions until the trial concludes and the outcomes are measured. Then there would obviously be a consultation period.
‘‘(It could be considered) if the trial is successful and there are calls from the local community and it’s done in a reasonable way with the support of the local community.’’
According to the MDBA, the trial ban is necessary to stop significant and accelerated erosion along that section of river.
It says high boat wash, particularly from wakeboarding, contributed to that erosion and a ban, along with riverbank rehabilitation work, would improve the resilience of river banks to erosion.
‘‘All we’re trying to do is create a space where high wash activities are restricted for environmental purposes and for the safety of other river users,’’ Mr Hammond said.
‘‘The wash from wakeboards have caused other vessels to capsize. We have had complaints about the large wash having a significant impact on other river users who have told us that they refuse to go canoeing or take their kids swimming because of it.
‘‘It seems reasonable for a part of the river to be set aside for other users. Wakeboards will still have their area to use. We’re not trying to ban all boats or skiing.
‘‘Activities that create high wash have an impact on the health of the river. All we are doing is trying to see if this trial ban will make a difference in erosion.’’
However, the move has shocked business and boating communities in the Bundalong and Corowa region, who claim it is unnecessary and will decimate tourism.
An online petition, started by the Save Boating on the Murray River group to stop the ban, has received more than 6700 signatures.
Group member Jason Burns, of Bundalong, told the Border Mail any ban could lead to further boating restrictions elsewhere.
‘‘This is a test pattern here of what’s going to happen down the Murray River,’’ he said.
Echuca’s Paul Eade from Xtreme Marine said there was always the possibility the ban may be extended to other areas in the future, which could be detrimental to the twin towns.
‘‘The impacts would be massive,’’ he said.
‘‘The money that these sports brings to town is enormous. I really feel for the likes of Corowa.’’