Gippsland Water Dragons are calling for a permanent home at the Port of Sale to ease their storage woes.

The Sale-based sporting club’s plea comes after months of uncertainty regarding their future.

Founder and president Heather Watts has been liaising with Wellington Shire Council for a home since the club’s inception.

“We’ve been asking for somewhere to keep our equipment since before we even formed, but over the last 18 months, I have been working really, really hard with the port redevelopment committee, with council, (and) with different user groups,” Ms Watts said.

According to Ms Watts, her initial communication with council was positive, with consultants engaged to liaise with club members and other groups who utilise the Port’s facilities.

“They came up with an initial plan – a draft plan, which actually had us on (the western) side of the Port, along with the Sale Boat Club – and at that stage, everything seemed to be going swimmingly,” Ms Watts said.

“But then the draft plan changed, and they’ve decided they want all the boating facilities down by the rowing club.”

The decision to locate the Water Dragons near the Ian Howard Rowing Shed has been made by council, in accordance with its Port of Sale Masterplan, made public in September last year.

The plan envisages transforming the Punt Lane site into “an integrated multi-use facility” for the Sunday Market and watercraft groups.

Ms Watts argues that the proposal is not in the best interests of the Water Dragons, nor council.

“They’re pursuing an abstract concept that I’m not even sure is particularly practical, (or) that will actually answer our needs at the end of the day,” Ms Watts said.

“If we’re down there, they’re going to have to build another boat ramp, or a winch.

“It seems like an unnecessary expense to me.”

The masterplan does note that an additional boat ramp will potentially need to be built at the Punt Lane site.

Ms Watts also bemoaned the lack of clarity from council, saying “even their new plan, it’s a concept plan – there’s actually nothing concrete as to what sort of space we’re going to have”.

Members of the Gippsland Water Dragons each week help with the loading and unloading of a 15-metre Dragon Boat, which weighs 300 kilograms. Photo: Tom Parry

Presently, all equipment belonging to the Water Dragons is stored at Ms Watts’ property in Cobains. She is also responsible for transporting the Dragon Boats on a custom-made trailer.

Her 10-kilometre journey from Cobains sees her tow the trailer through roundabouts and sharp turns, before unloading the craft – and the associated equipment in her car – at the Port of Sale’s boat ramp on the western bank.

With the club’s boats 15 metres in length and each weighing 300 kilograms, it is the only site in Sale from which the Water Dragons can launch and retrieve their craft.

Additionally, the adjacent car-park allows Ms Watts ample space to position her car and trailer, and her members with plenty of parking options.

As such, Ms Watts believes that having a storage facility on the western bank is the most practical and cost-effective solution, even if it’s only temporary.

“I was told (by council) there was somebody that was allocated to the redevelopment project, and they’d be helping us look for temporary premises; they haven’t come up with anything,” she said.

“This spot that we’re standing on currently, on west bank beside the Sale Boat Club… would be a perfect spot for us until something more permanent is done somewhere else.”

The Gippsland Times approached Wellington Shire Council for comment, receiving the following response from Mayor Ian Bye:

“During the current financial year, Council will investigate the needs of all water-based users in the Port of Sale precinct.

“That investigation and consultation process will be completed in the context of the adopted masterplan that clearly directs any new joint multi-use facility to be on the eastern side of the precinct.

“Gippsland Water Dragons will be consulted during this process.”

The Gippsland Water Dragons pose on their preferred site for a permanent home. The club currently has more then 50 members.
Photo: Tom Parry.