HMAS Darwin scuttle set for Tasmania

Captain Brian Schlegel with senators Steve Martin, Marise Payne, and Jonathon Duniam.
Captain Brian Schlegel with senators Steve Martin, Marise Payne, and Jonathon Duniam.

The federal government has approved the decommissioned HMAS Darwin to be turned into a dive wreck off St Helens.

This means final approval now rests with the state government as to whether the project will go ahead.

Defence Minister Marise Payne said the wreck would deliver significant economic and tourism benefits for the region.

The ship was decommissioned in 2007 and had sailed more than 1 million nautical miles during 33 years of service.

Tasmanian Nationals senator Steve Martin said the wreck would give small businesses to chance to capitalise on national and international interest to dive in Tasmania’s waters. 

“This will bring additional tourists and spending to Tasmania, which will create and support local jobs, both directly and indirectly through the industries that support tourism in our state,” Senator Martin said.

Tasmanian Liberal senator Jonathon Duniam said he had championed for the ship to be scuttled in Tasmania.

He said the federal and state governments would soon work out financial arrangements for the scuttling.

The state government made a bid for the wreck earlier this year.

State Growth Minister Peter Gutwein said the government would now assess the total cost of the scuttling before it made a decision on whether to proceed or not.

St Helens missed out on its bid to receive former navy vessel HMAS Tobruk in 2016, which was scuttled in Queensland.

Dive operator Peter Paulsen, who has been lobbying for 17 years for a wreck to be placed off the East Coast, described the news as “surreal”.

“We’ve stuck to the task for a long time,” Mr Paulsen said.

“It’s a good thing, it’ll really put us on the map. This will give us a real chance to mark ourselves as a destination in Tasmania.

“The words I heard today were that we were going to be known as the action capital of Tasmania.”

But No Dive Wreck for Bay of Fires co-ordinator Lesa Whittaker said she was unimpressed with the lacking community consultation.

“I’m shocked and saddened at what’s going to happen to the natural environment,” she said.

Break O’Day mayor Mick Tucker said the council had been heavily involved in the bid for both wrecks and understood the benefits of artificial wrecks in terms of economics and the environment.

“It has been well-documented that artificial reefs become safe havens and breeding grounds for local marine life as the dive wreck is protected from fishing,” Councillor Tucker said.

“We look forward to seeing the state government’s proposal for the ex-HMAS Darwin dive wreck and working with them to deliver positive outcomes for our community, region and state.”

It has served in three battles with honours: East Timor in 1999, the Persian Gulf 2002 and 2003, and Iraq in 2003.

It was the first Australian ship deployed to the Persian Gulf in 1990.

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