THE Port of Echuca will operate at a loss next financial year — to the tune of $1.642 million.
And a concerned ratepayer is calling on the council to do something before it all falls apart.
‘‘It is time there was some transparency around the decision making process in regards to what is an important community asset,’’ James McDougall penned in a letter to both the council and the Riv.
‘‘If the Port of Echuca continues on the current path, the damage will be irreversible.’’
In the proposed 2018/19 council budget the Port of Echuca, including the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre, is forecast to be $1.642 million in the red.
Under the banner of ‘resilient economy’, the proposed budget states the budget will only make $496,000 while the expenses will reach $2.138 million.
Mr McDougall said the port has been suffering for a long time.
‘‘And we are now at a point where we risk losing our own history and damaging our tourism industry due to the obvious mismanagement of the area,’’ he said.
‘‘There have been decisions made, somewhere along the line, that are not to the benefit of the area.
‘‘They include, but certainly are not limited to, the removal of the railway line into the wharf, allowing the closure of the blacksmith and woodturner workshops, the construction of the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre and the cessation of access to the museum area of the Bridge Hotel.’’
Mr McDougall said there needs to be a ‘‘serious community voice’’ when it comes to decisions that affect the Port of Echuca Precinct.
‘‘Not just decisions that are made behind closed doors and by people who appear to have no appreciation for the heritage of the area, no knowledge of the past, and no ability to visualise the future of the area,’’ he said.
‘‘I believe the Port of Echuca Precinct needs a governing body that comprises of local business operators, heritage/history experts, community organisations and representation from the local government.
‘‘With an organisation such as this I believe that you will achieve wonderful things for the Port of Echuca and the region as a whole.
‘‘Here is your chance to do some real good for our community and start delivering transparency around the decision making process with our Port of Echuca.’’
Mayor Adrian Weston said despite the loss they are confident there is still potential in the port.
‘‘Council believes there is significant potential within the port precinct area and this is supported by private investment occurring and the growing interest within the arts and cultural spaces within the area,’’ he said.
‘‘The proposed budget shows council provides a subsidy of $1.642 million towards the Port of Echuca and Port of Echuca Discovery Centre.
‘‘This service budget supports the operation of the wharf, moorings of the boats, the operating steam engine displays and static historical displays as well as the operation of the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre.’’
Cr Weston said council is currently in the final stages of developing a new Port Precinct Plan.
‘‘This has been developed through a range of community engagement approaches and the draft plan will be released for public comment in the coming months,’’ he said.
‘‘This plan will set the future direction for the precinct, set the aspirations for all stakeholders to advance the precinct and will guide subsequent reviews of council’s role within the area including the operating model of the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre.’’