Geelong Advertiser, 29 October 2009

Ocean Grove dive site row erupts

Ocean Grove dive site row erupts

By Alex Oates, Geelong Advertiser

ONE of the people behind the idea to sink the HMAS Canberra off Ocean Grove, to create a top-class dive destination, has been refused a mooring licence for his company OzDive and Boat Charters.

Thursday, 29 October 2009 — Parks Victoria has rejected Tom Wende's bid to have an exclusive mooring, instead allocating a site to Dive Victoria the state's largest dive company and one to private boaters. Another will be shared by licensed operators.

Mr Wende yesterday labelled the decision "ludicrous".

"It makes my blood boil ... my customers are livid," Mr Wende said.

"I've been in business for 20 years and my record as far as safety goes is second to none I've never had an incident and I pride myself on safety so it's an insult to be denied a licence."

Mr Wende claims he contacted Parks Victoria maritime planning and strategy team leader David Ritman when tenders were made public a month ago and was guaranteed support.

"I had a meeting (with Mr Ritman) and nothing happened (it's) very disappointing," he said.

"I was the one who talked to federal MPs to get the Canberra to Melbourne."

Mr Wende worked with federal MP Greg Hunt, former Opposition leader Brendan Nelson, ex-Corangamite MP Stewart McArthur, State MP Martin Dixon and members of tourism and dive communities to bring the decommissioned navy frigate to Victoria.

He was also a key player in the meetings that led to the Federal Government donating $2.8m to the project.

However, his standing in the long-running saga has failed to net him a mooring at the site.

The mooring allocations have also frustrated several charters owners on the Bellarine and in Geelong.

Geelong Dive Centre, the city's largest dive company, is at loss to comprehend the decision.

"We are receiving numerous requests from both local, interstate and international divers who wish to access this wreck ... (and) this has been ongoing for the past several months," dive centre managing director David Summers said in a letter which was also addressed to Member for Bellarine Lisa Neville.

Parks Victoria's regional marketing and communications officer Jarred Parsons said yesterday the dive site would remain closed for at least a month while the Department of Defence continues to conduct a safety inspection of the ship.

"Once it is declared safe and moorings infrastructure is in place, the site will be opened to divers," he said.

"This work obviously requires good weather conditions but it is hoped it will be completed in November."

Geelong Advertiser, Online

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