OFFICIALLY OPEN: Whitsunday Mayor Jennifer Whitney and Member for Mackay Julieanne Gilbert (on behalf of minister Mark Bailey) unveil the new plaque at the Whisper Bay boat ramp on Friday.
ABOUT 20 years ago, Jamie Lovenbury towed a boat from Victoria to Cairns and, on the way home, stopped off at Airlie Beach.
“It was meant to be a fishing mecca but I had trouble finding a boat ramp so I kept heading south,” he said.
Thanks to the newly opened Whisper Bay boat ramp, “that’s not going to happen now”, Mr Lovenbury told a crowd of politicians, contractors, tradespeople and members of the Whitsunday Volunteer Marine Rescue group last week.
“You come into town and you’ve got this beautiful infrastructure… and (people) are going to keep coming back here because we have this.”
Mr Lovenbury, a committee member of the Whitsunday Marine Club and president of the Whitsunday Game Fish Club, was one of a number of speakers who addressed the official opening of the Whis
per Bay boat ramp on Friday.
He said since 1995, the WGFC, Air Sea Rescue (now VMR) and former powerboat club had all used the facility but in declining amounts.
Through the years the ramp became known for its exposure to northerly winds.
Accidents happened in the wrong weather conditions, leading to serious safety concerns.
It took a local and state government election, a protest rally down the main street of Airlie Beach and more than five years of campaigning but, eventually, the Labor State Government came up with the $3 million, to which the Whitsunday Regional Council, through substantial hard work, had managed to reduce the overall cost.
The result was a new breakwall, new floating pontoon and an overall better boat ramp, which opened to the public in January.
“And now it’s all finished, the VMR can tow rescue boats in here on most tides… and as for the Game Fish Club, we have many events here where we just never used to use the old ramp – it was just too dangerous,” Mr Lovenbury said.
“Now it all happens here, which is awesome.”
Mr Lovenbury also praised Whitsunday Regional Council for its attention to detail in finishing off the job, providing a better car park, re-grassing the lawn and more.
“It’s just bought this place to the next level,” he said, noting the difference this would make to the weddings and functions hosted by the clubhouse.
Last week’s official proceedings were a chance for the politicians involved to have their “day in the sun” and bask in the success of providing a true community asset.
But there was one key person missing from the festivities.
Bob Spees, the fisherman who spearheaded the better boat ramp campaign declined the invitation to attend, saying “it’s not about pollies and people bashing their chest.”
Mr Lovenbury however paid tribute to Mr Spees and all those on his team, saying they’d “just kept pounding and pounding to get it done and it’s just awesome to see what we’ve come up with at the end of the day”.
Mr Spees, in turn, thanked all those who had worked so hard to see the Whisper Bay boat ramp upgrade become a reality.
“Everybody who came and signed the petitions and pushed with me when we did the parade through Main St, Bronwyn Taha who saw the project through, Kevin Collins went out of his way to help, John Atkinson and Greg France, and the Palaszczuk government for seeing it through so quickly in 12 months,” he said.