Economic Benefits

Adding money to the Victorian economy

By placing a properly prepared and safeguarded ship of the stature of ex HMAS Canberra FFG-02 in a suitably selected location, which offers safe diving, VARS is confident that as a result there will be significant potential to develop the recreational diving market, thus positively impacting the Victorian economy.

These benefits will be gained in the following way:

Scuba diver with weedy seadragon, Victoria, Australia
Diver with weedy seadragon
© SeaPics, David Bryant
Attraction of Tourism
The sinking of the HMAS Canberra as an artificial reef will represent a significant new tourist attraction for Victoria. New tourists are expected to be drawn from both interstate and overseas. Currently Victoria is not well known as a dive destination although this has been improving with the addition of the Marine Parks. The HMAS Canberra artificial reef will significantly enhance Victoria's reputation in this regard.
At present, Victoria does have quite a number of shipwrecks, especially in the vicinity of Port Phillip Bay heads. These are known within the local dive community and form the basis of much of our local recreational diving. However, they are not well known outside of Victoria.
The addition of the ex HMAS Canberra Reef will provide new promotional opportunities that can be utilised in conjunction with the existing dive sites to substantially change the overall perception of Victoria as a dive destination.
It is anticipated that significant tourism numbers will be drawn from interstate and overseas, potentially doubling numbers of divers visiting. The current figure is given as 7,000 per annum, based on a sample of three of the largest dive operators. Of these, it is expected that 30% will be visitors drawn from overseas. This additional tourism will significantly benefit the local economy where the new wreck is to be located as well as Victoria in general, because visitors are unlikely to only want to dive, or to visit just one location.
It should also be pointed out that many diver tourists a lso bring their families, very often non-divers. Thus — it is likely that the overall effect is greater than the numbers indicated above.
Scuba diver enjoying the marine life, Victoria, Australia
© SeaPics, David Bryant
Increased Security to the Dive Industry
The dive industry in Victoria is currently under threat. The industry centres on Port Phillip Bay, especially around the heads where most recreational diving activities take place. Recent moves to deepen the shipping channel in Port Phillip Bay via dredging are likely to result in many of the existing dive sites becoming undiveable for quite some period of time. Combined with the fact that the existing shipwrecks outside the heads are deteriorating and have an uncertain future, this means that recreational divers will either turn to interstate or overseas to pursue their support. Further, the industry will find it increasingly difficult to attract new divers as opportunities to dive become limited. The provision of a substantial new dive site, such as the ex HMAS Canberra Reef will have a major positive impact.
The Victorian dive industry currently employs around 520 people full-time and 3120 part-time. Some 68,000 dives were completed in 2005, not including the "Dive Experience" market of schools, corporate and individuals. Approximately 5000 divers were trained.
The dive industry is relatively small, but does produce a high yield per participant. The advent of declaring and promoting Marine Parks in Victoria has established the belief amongst dive operators that tourists will come to Victoria with as much enthusiasm as Victorian divers head north to dive.
This industry and these jobs are at risk in the current climate. This project, if implemented is expected to not only redress this situation, but also add to the industry with increased divers, from locally, interstate and overseas. The addition of a major wreck, placed in an area where access can be maximised, will enable Victoria to be promoted as a true temperate water dive destination and will enhance the reputation that Victorian diving has been gaining. The feedback that operators are getting from tourists has indicated that Marine Parks have attracted them to the area and that our existing wrecks have reinforced the visit decision.
The Dive Industry of Victoria supports this view. There is ample documentation in overseas studies that demonstrates the potential for purposefully created dive wrecks to achieve significant economic benefits for the community. Studies carried out in Canada, the United States, New Zealand and other states of Australia have all clearly shown the economic benefits of vessels sunk in their region. The ex HMAS Swan, ex HMAS Perth and ex HMAS Hobart are excellent Australian examples of the benefits achieved from the ship reefing programme.
The establishment of a reef community produces large communities of diverse benthic organisms such as sponges, gorgonians, hydroids, anthozoans, bryozoans, crustaceans, and algae. This abundance of benthic species creates an ample food supply for recreationally and commercially important marine species such as crabs, snapper, crayfish, flounder, etc. Furthermore, species such as these may supplement the diet of larger piscivores, which have been noted in copious quantities on many artificial reefs. This abundance of prey attracts numerous species to artificial reefs, helping to establish a successful and thriving community.
VARS will develop a comprehensive plan in consultation with relevant environmental authorities to ensure that the highest standards are adhered to. This plan will draw on the experience of other similar projects both locally and overseas. Appropriate environmental studies will be undertaken prior to scuttling. If required, the VARS will also coordinate longer term studies after scuttling.

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