Geelong Independent, 15 October 2009

Anger at dive limit

Anger at dive limit

By Jessica Benton, Geelong Independent

Thursday, 15 October 2009 — Recreational divers will have limited access to a new $10 million dive site off the Bellarine Peninsula, according to industry sources.

State Government's Parks Victoria has set aside three of four proposed moorings to dive HMAS Canberra for commercial operators, leaving recreational divers to share the remaining mooring.

Long-time recreational diver Peter Rogers, of Ocean Grove, said he feared dive tour operators would monopolise the site.

He expected one company, Dive Victoria, to win rights to two of the moorings.

"There's going to be a lot of other divers who also feel like they?'e being left out," he said.

"The ship seems to now be targeted at tourist divers, so there's going to be a lot of local divers disadvantaged."

Mr Rogers was also concerned about a permit system for two-hour access to the site.

He believed divers would face long waits for permits without knowing whether conditions would be suitable on their allocated diving days.

"This could mean divers miss out, have to apply for another permit or may take risks and dive anyway."

Victorian Artificial Reef Society president John Lawler sympathised with Mr Rogers but said recreational divers had little chance of the Government changing the access rules.

"In an ideal world we would love more access but we have to live with what the Government has given us," Mr Lawler said.

Dive Victoria manager Jason Salter confirmed the company expected exclusive use of two moorings, given it managed 90 per cent of tourist diving activity in Victoria.

"We want to be able to go to those moorings 24 hours, seven days a week without fear of others being there."

"If we don't get two moorings we're going to have a real problem because so many people come through our company."

The Government expects to open the site to diving in the next few weeks after scuttling HMAS Canberra off Barwon Heads earlier this month.

Geelong Independent Online

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