Concerns raised over environment, cost for HMAS Darwin dive wreck

Picture: James Whittle
Picture: James Whittle

Not all Tasmanian residents are pleased with the federal government’s gift of the HMAS Darwin to Tasmania.

The former navy vessel will likely become a dive wreck off the East Coast following assessments undertaken by the state government.

However, North East Bioregional Network president Todd Dudley said the ship should instead be recycled for scrap metal.

“As we have said for many years, Skeleton Bay is a beautiful pristine body of water that deserves protection from inappropriate development,” he said.

“There are already a large number of tourists visiting the Bay of Fires area including Skeleton Bay to enjoy its relatively undeveloped natural beauty. As such we don’t need artificial fake tourism attractions.”

Mr Dudley said the scuttling of the ship would cost in excess of $6 million.

“This is an outrageous waste of money that could be better spent on maintaining and restoring the natural environment of Tasmania.

“It is no longer acceptable to use the ocean as a dumping ground for redundant navy ships or other waste.  Such actions demonstrate a lack of respect for the marine environment.”

Tourism Industry Council Tasmania chief executive Luke Martin said though it was great that the HMAS Darwin had been offered to the state, there were other projects that should take priority over the scuttling of a ship.

“The state government shouldn’t be expected to write a blank cheque and pay for the cost of submerging it and cleaning it up,” he said.

“I understand the concerns some may have about the brand of Binalong Bay and the pristine nature of it, and that’s got to be front and centre. That drives more visitation and tourism to the East Coast of the state more than anything.”

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Mr Martin said many of the same arguments for the sinking of the HMAS Darwin were made for the sinking of the Troy D in the state’s south-east.

“That’s closer to Hobart, and that never really worked. So, the [scuttling of the HMAS Darwin] is a bit of a leap of faith.”

Mr Martin said due diligence was needed to ensure there was no environmental impact on the bay if the scuttling went ahead.

St Helens Chamber of Commerce president and dive operator Peter Paulsen said he had lived in the region for close to 40 years, and was aware of how magnificent its environment was.

”To get this thing to the level of being spotlessly clean and having no environmental impact, it costs money,” he said. 

“Beyond that, that’s it. Once it’s on the bottom, you don’t want to touch it again. There’s no maintenance factor here.”

Mr Paulsen said the dive wreck would act like a national park. 

“Everyone at the wreck would pay as fee, as you would when you enter a national park,” he said.

“Over time, that money comes back into the system. There is a positive financial outcome for this thing built into the system right from the get-go.”

He said the wreck would also have the benefit of becoming a habitat for fish.

“The day after the Darwin hits the bottom, the sun is still going to come up, the beaches are still going to look the same, the water clarity is going to be just as clear. 

“The only difference is that we now have a giant fish habitat, with thousands of fish looking for a new home.”

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