We’ll row, row, row the boat

By Riverine Herald

AN Australia-first kayak launch that caters for people of all abilities was unveiled in Mathoura on Monday.

Completed just in time for International Day of People with Disability, teams from Vivid and Community Living and Respite Services were among those who gathered to test out the game-changing new facility at Edward River Bridge Picnic Area.

Project manager and NSW National Parks ranger Amanda Lavender said the lightbulb moment for the wheelchair-accessible launcher came after it was suggested by a local tour operator.

Instantly sensing potential, it wasn’t long before she and her team had secured $60,000 funding for the project from Transport NSW.

They then knuckled down to develop the design.

‘‘I had a concept in my mind but nothing like this had been done before in Australia so I couldn’t find any examples,’’ Ms Lavender said.

‘‘So I looked overseas and found some ideas then started putting together sketches.’’

The innovation continued with the very materials making up the facility.

Partnering with recycled plastic contractor Replas, 1.6 tonnes of recycled plastic (that’s the equivalent of 4 million plastic bags) from Moama was used to create the launcher.

‘‘NSW National Parks wanted to use local waste and recycling — firstly because it’s maintenance-free and long-lasting,’’ Replas’ Mark Jacobsen said.

‘‘But more importantly, they wanted to get some of the community’s waste back in as product, instead of it just going to the tip with no end use.’’

From there, NSW Parks passed the project to SR Engineering’s Steve Rawson.

And while the nation-first design had its challenges, Mr Rawson said it was worth every headache in the end.

‘‘The river floods and also dries up down to the mud so we had to cater for that in the design — so we used cable stays instead of pilings. We’ve used a gradient indicator system on the start of the gangway which allows people to actually make an informed decision before they progress down the gangway, to know whether it suits their abilities.

‘‘We also incorporated a transfer seat and railings to make the launch more stable for everyone.’’

Murray Regional Tourism chief executive Mark Francis lauded the new facility, saying he hoped it would be the first of many.

‘‘I’m already approaching councils about making this happen so we can one day see these all the way down the river,’’ he said.