The Nationals leader and Member for Murray Plains, Peter Walsh, has taken the fight for a successful Southern 80 to the floor of the Victorian Parliament.
Mr Walsh says despite the Moama Water Sport Club delaying the world’s biggest ski race until March 24-26 because of the floods, there is still no guarantee the banks of the Murray will have been reopened to the public.
He says there is no reason beyond the usual government indifference, regional Victoria is “out of sight, out of mind”.
“On behalf of the Moama Water Sports Club I am calling on Environment Minister Ingrid Stitt to urgently instruct her department to do the work so the Southern 80 will have the river camping areas and the viewing areas along that stretch of river between Torrumbarry and Echuca open to the public so that people can actually com to Echuca-Moama and go to the race,” Mr Walsh added.
“This is a much-needed economic boost for the river community, for its hospitality and accommodation industries in particular, and the last thing the event needs on its road to recovery is another government bungle which this time will stop the general public setting up at vantage points along the river,” he says.
“The Southern 80 is one of the flagship events on the tourism calendar of Echuca-Moama, so that river needs to be open so the people can come – and they come in their tens of thousands to watch this race.”
Mr Walsh says the speed, the drama and the depth of competition makes the Southern 80 the premier boat race in Australia, if not the world.
“It where you have boats with two skiers up, hurtling through the twists and turns of the river from Torrumbarry to Echuca, so it is incredibly exciting for those who camp and go along the river to see the race to actually be able to see those boats go past,” he says.
“For those three days of racing, Moama Water Sports Club president Steve Shipp has asked that I raise with the minister that the work gets done by Parks Victoria to make sure our side of the river is open.
“They hope that NSW Forests do the work on their side, but NSW has already made it obvious it values events such as these, and what they can do for regional economies, a lot more than we do in Melbourne.
“Sadly, the Victorian government has chosen not to be a sponsor of the Southern 80, but fortunately Destination NSW does put significant sponsorship money into the race.
“But I would still like to think the Victorian government could at least do something useful this year by actually making sure the river is open so visitors can come back to Echuca for the race.”