New port plan leaves Dragons confused over impracticalities

Gippsland Water Dragons dragon boating club is looking for a more suitable location at the Port of Sale. Photo: Contributed

Josh Farrell
GIPPSLAND Water Dragons say the revised Port of Sale Masterplan threatens the club’s future, as it leaves members and equipment without a permanent home.
The plan, released last week, is being voted on at this week’s Wellington Shire Council meeting, after a review of the previous plan begun in August last year and community consultations earlier this year.
The Sale-based dragon boating club was launched in November last year, breaking away from the Bairnsdale-based dragon boat club.
Its growth has been rapid, clocking up 58 members in its first year, and beginning a junior program this week.
However, the club currently has nowhere to store its boats and equipment.
This includes three club dragon boats, which are almost 20 metres long and transported on boat trailers, and other equipment such as paddles and life jackets, which are all stored in club members’ backyards and homes.
The club’s president Heather Watts said members had hoped the new port plan would give them space on the west bank, on the opposite side of the canal to the library and arts centre, which is where the dragon boats are launched.
“The first draft of the new plan gave us a small space on the west side for a shed or storage facility,” she said.
“But the new plan wants to put our club in with the rowing club and other community clubs on the east bank, near the rowing sheds.”
According to the new port plan, the council will create an “integrated multi-use facility” along Punt Lane, close to the current rowing shed.
The draft details the new area could accommodate storage for Sale Sunday market volunteers, dog obedience training and rowing clubs, along with the dragon boating club.
However, Watts said this could create major traffic issues, as the dragon boats are stored in this area and would then need to be transported to the west side of the port to be launched at the boat ramp.
“We require a boat ramp to launch and recover our boats, plus a large turning area for our vehicles towing the 17-metre-long dragon boat,” she said.
The club trains four times a week, which means the boats on trailers, along with other equipment, need to be hauled around to the other side of the canal, and back, every time.
“It would be potentially hazardous to be towing oversized vehicles so often on local roads, and if we had to do this on a market day, pedestrians — including children — could also be at risk,” Watts said.
The other headache for the club’s members is the lack of time frame on the shared facility’s construction. It also appears to be unfunded as yet.
“This could leave our growing club without a place to store its equipment and base its club for years, if not decades,” Watts said.
“Our club has grown at an unexpectedly rapid rate and our storage needs have become quite urgent.”
The club will approach council this week to propose a site on the west side of the port it believes would be much more suitable.
Despite the area being flood prone, a non permanent shed structure could at least be a short term solution.