A proposal to create an artificial diving reef off Maria Island would remove a Tamar River eyesore and boost East Coast tourism, its proponents have claimed.
Planning consultant Chris Peterson has prepared a business plan for the Orford-Triabunna Chamber of Commerce that would purge the LD-Marine-owned Cotswold Prince of pollutants, tow it to Maria Island and scuttle it.
Mr Peterson said that such a diving attraction would bring more than $5 million into the East Coast economy in its first year of operation.
Chamber member Geoff Bull said the reef would be established by scuttling a ship south of Magistrates Bay in the 23m-deep water of Mercury Passage, 1300m offshore.
Mr Peterson and Mr Bull said their preference would be to use the Cotswold Prince because it would rid the Tamar River of the rusting hulk, moored in East Arm, at no cost to local or State Governments.
Mr Peterson said he believed the eyesore could be cleaned to a standard required by the 1985 International Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter for less than $180,000.
It is understood that Marine And Safety Tasmania is negotiating with the ship’s owners to ensure its removal.
"But if the Cotswold Prince is not available for any reason, we would approach the Australian Fishing Authority for a boat impounded for illegal fishing in Australian waters," Mr Peterson said.
"Six boats were apprehended for illegal fishing in 2001 alone and two have since been sunk off South Australia as dive wrecks.
"The former minesweeper Huon – or the sinking of a structure other than a ship – are other possibilities."
Mr Bull, one of the founders of the East Coast’s burgeoning wine industry, said a dive wreck like the Cotswold Prince had the potential to greatly enhance the region’s profile.
"And it would be there for dive enthusiasts with minimum maintenance for 100 years plus," he said.
Mr Peterson said the Australian recreational diving market was worth $1 billion from international divers visiting Australia and $547 million from Australian divers alone.
"The mainland has a recognised dive trail, and this project would give the East Coast the potential to establish a dive trail of its own," he said.
"The report prepared for us by marine scientist Sam Ibbott shows the proposed site to be one of the best available.
"It’s deep enough that there won’t be any navigational issues, and the site is sheltered enough that only strong westerly winds will impact on diving the Cotswold.
"The site is outside the Maria Island ferry route and any known recreational water-sport areas, and the island’s coloured cliffs will form a magnificent backdrop to the dive."
Chamber president John Barry said he believed the Tasmanian, mainland and overseas target markets could be greatly enlarged.
"And this proposal has the potential to establish a tourism icon in the Triabunna-Orford area," he said.
MAST operations manager Charles Weston said the organization would be "more than happy to help where it can" in bringing the proposal to fruition.
"That would be a fabulous way forward for the State," he said.
"This would be fully using a potential resource rather than just scrapping it, and would have great potential to boost tourism."
Source: The Examiner