The push for Tasmania’s North-East to have its own artificial reef and dive site continues, with the state government confirming it has expressed its interest in the decommissioned HMAS Darwin.
In 2016, Tasmania failed to secure HMAS Tobruk, which will instead be scuttled off Queensland’s coast, despite the sunshine state already being home to HMAS Brisbane.
The Queensland government was supported by one of its local councils, which contributed $1 million to the project.
North-East local Peter Paulsen said it was time for the Tasmanian government to “share some of its wealth” and commit funds to secure a navy ship for the state.
“They’ve got cash in the bank, let’s share some of that wealth into the North-East corner of the state and provide it with a unique opportunity to be part of the state’s tourism industry,” he said.
The passionate campaigner started the Tobruk 4 Tassie project and has spent more than five years fighting for a dive wreck at Skeleton Bay.
He claimed the state government didn’t put up a big enough fight for HMAS Tobruk and said this was a “second chance”.
In an email to the Department of Defence in 2016, Premier Will Hodgman said Tasmania would “facilitate the location of the vessel as a dive wreck should the Australian overnment agree to provide the Tobruk to Tasmania with the Australian government meeting all costs up to and including scuttling”.
“The Tasmanian government is not prepared to indemnify the Australian government in relation to liabilities associated with the vessel,” the email read.
Mr Paulsen described it as an “insulting” attempt at a bid for the ship.
This week, Lyons Liberal MHA Guy Barnett confirmed the state government had communicated its interest in HMAS Darwin with the federal government last month and agreed it would be a “unique tourism attraction”.
“We have submitted a bid to the federal government and if we are successful we will negotiate a deal that's in the best interests of Tasmania,” Mr Barnett said.
It has not yet been confirmed if the Liberals will put money on the table for HMAS Darwin.
Mr Paulsen said he was “excited the state government had at least shown some enthusiasm for the project”.
“The devil is in the detail now … let’s make sure that enthusiasm translates into something real,” he said.
It is understood the federal government will make a decision on the sale of HMAS Darwin by July.
The ship was decommissioned in December after more than three decades of service.
It had visited more than 50 countries and undertaken operations in the Middle East, East Timor, and the Solomon Islands.