Time is running out for Tasmania to secure decommissioned naval vessel HMAS Tobruk, says Tobruk Skeleton Bay project manager Peter Paulsen.
The state has until the end of July to submit a detailed application for acquisition of the ship, which has been earmarked as the centrepiece of a proposed artificial dive site at Skeleton Bay.
However, Mr Paulsen says the application will be unable to go ahead without the full support of the state government.
“We've come down to a critical point in proceedings where we really only have maybe two and a half weeks in total to put this together, which is where our frustration is coming from,” Mr Paulsen said.
“We want to get some clear clarification from the state government through the Minister for Tourism, our Premier (Will Hodgman), as to their absolute support for the project, and the question is what are they prepared to do to help secure this ship.”
Tasmania is the only state not to have been gifted an ex-Navy ship for an artificial dive site, however both the Navy and the federal government have been unwilling to finance the scuttling of either HMAS Tobruk or HMAS Sydney.
Mr Paulsen said while he had recently received encouraging correspondence from the Premier regarding support for the dive site, there had been some conflicting responses from others within the department.
“We (the working group) have worked together to overcome any barrier that's been thrown up at us along the way - and there's been a few.
“We’ve seen this as an opportunity not as a threat, we see it as an investment not as a cost, and we see it as an asset not as a liability, and we're sort of getting the opposite opinion from within state departments which is frustrating and it's confusing.”
Mr Paulsen has been pursuing acquisition of the ship for the past four years, with the help of Break O'Day mayor Mick Tucker and general manager John Brown.
Cr Tucker said it had been an easy decision for council to throw its support behind what would be “an economic game-changer for the North-East”, expecting the state would see an extra 30,000 bed nights as a result of the dive site.
“We've had Dr Robert Noakes, who's one of the world's leading senior economists, do the business case analysis and it stacks up,” Cr Tucker said.
“We're very confident that the proposal that's been put forward will be of significant economic benefit to our community and all of Tasmania.”
Mr Paulsen said he was expecting to be informed of the government’s stance on the project by the end of the week.