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‘Free’ port access voted down at Campaspe Shire Council meeting

By Lachlan Durling

COUNCILLOR Neil Pankhurst has said it would be difficult to prepare a report on the economic benefits of the Port of Echuca because “it’s actually worse than it was 10 years ago”.

His comments come after councillor Vicki Neele put forward a notice of motion at the most recent Campaspe Shire Council ordinary meeting.

The motion, which lost, asked council chief executive Declan Moore to prepare a report for the August meeting that outlined requirements to offer free access to locals and visitors for the Port of Echuca wharf, wharf walkway and potentially the Port of Echuca Discovery Centre — a report which Cr Neele said would inform future debates around the controversial Port of Echuca.

“This report is hopefully going to show the benefits or otherwise … I’m just hoping that by getting support from other councillors we can create that active working port,” Cr Neele said.

“Much public money has been spent on creating this asset and currently it is limited to a very few locals and visitors to the port.”

Councillors voted against the motion, saying Campaspe Shire residents, as well as people within the 2731 postcode, already had free access to the Discovery Centre and the wharf.

Cr Neele also requested information regarding government (local and state) and council contributions to works along the wharf and riverfront during the past 10 years and currently under way which have contributed in turn to substantial tourism and economic benefits.

Cr Pankhurst said providing that information would prove difficult.

“I believe it’s a far from effective use of council resources. The challenge this sets the chief executive, I’m not sure how he can provide the information,” he said.

“Who determines whether funding spent contributes to economic or tourism benefits?

“Despite all the funding put into this precinct over the past 10 years it’s actually worse than it was 10 years ago. It will be difficult for the chief executive to find any contributions that have had a substantial benefit.”

Crs Neele, Annie Vickers and Adrian Weston voted in favour of the motion.

“Portions of this have merit, but we have already done the work. The portions with merit would be to disclose to the broader public the amount of money spent in that area and what it contributes to our tourism,” Cr Leigh Wilson said.

“But it’s a bit counter-intuitive to the process of this council over the past four years that has decided to cut money from activity in the port area, but were going to do this to increase activity in the port area.”

Speaking before the motion went to a vote, Cr Neele responded to councillors’ concerns.

“My motion is suggesting we have that area free, available access. We have access, but we don’t have accessibility,” Cr Neele said.

“Cr Wilson said we have cut many of the activities at the port; I can remember advocating for the money to be made available to community groups that wanted to run activities there.

“We gave additional money for council staff to generate activities there.”

Cr Pentreath called a point of order.

“That is in reference to the quarantine money in the budget. We didn’t spend money, we actually pulled money out of the port to create something,” Cr Pentreath said.

The motion was put to a vote and lost.

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