A Launceston dive master says scuttling HMAS Tobruk off Tasmania’s East Coast would have created endless opportunities for the state’s tourism industry.
Leigh Cuthbertson has been diving in Tasmanian waters for the past 10 years and said he was disappointed to learn the retired vessel would instead be handed over to Queensland to be used as a dive wreck.
The 27-year-old said both the local diving community and the industry as a whole could have benefited from an artificial reef which was expected to attract 5000 divers each year.
“The opportunities would have been unreal,” Mr Cuthbertson said.
“The problem with Tasmanian tourism is that while we are targeting tourists from Asian countries, which is good, we’re just not getting as many tourists from the mainland.
“There’s tourism being added down south but it’s a lot of repeat tourism, so you’re chasing the same visitors. Dive attractions are a completely different market and a wreck would have attracted those mainland divers.”
After diving HMAS Brisbane in Queensland, Mr Cuthbertson said he believed a similar operation would have worked well in Tasmania.
“If you charged each diver as little as $25 and you had at least a thousand divers each year then there’s $25,000,” he said.
If Tasmania had been successful in its bid to secure the ship, it was expected to be scuttled off Skeleton Bay on the state’s East Coast which is known for its iconic beaches and some of the world’s best diving.
Break O’Day Mayor Mick Tucker said the benefits of having a dive wreck in the area would have rippled through the entire state.
“It would have provided a direct financial benefit to the state,” he said.
“Not just for the East Coast of Tasmania …[divers] would have flown into Hobart or Launceston, or come over on the ship. Then you have the minimum three night stay because you can’t fly out the day you dive, plus most people like to dive at least twice so they can cover the whole wreck site.
“On top of that you would have hire cars, retail spending, meals.”
Mayor Tucker said he believed Tasmania had presented “one of the best” business cases and was unsure why it was rejected.
Tasmania is now the only state in the country not to be gifted a former naval ship to use as an artificial dive reef.
“We need to start being treated as part of Australia and being recognised,” Mayor Tucker said.
HMAS Tobruk will be scuttled between Hervey Bay and Fraser Island off Australia’s eastern Queensland coast and north of the HMAS Brisbane dive site.