Wyuna heads to Docklands

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wyunaAFTER 18 months of refurbishment, the former pilot cutter MV Wyuna is gearing to depart Beauty Point, Tasmania for Victoria – but not to Hastings as originally planned.

The 1953 vessel will, for the time being, be berthed at Docklands as a floating tourist attraction.

Western Port Oberon Association president Max Bryant said the boat would make its way around to Hastings when permits were approved for a permanent home in Western Port.

The 48-cabin vessel was donated to the association in 2013 for display at the Victorian Maritime Centre/Museum currently at Crib Point.

She was envisaged as being part of a tourism ‘double act’ with the Oberon class submarine HMAS Otama.

Until 1979 the Wyuna was anchored outside The Heads at Port Phillip to transfer pilots onto incoming ships.

However, delays in receiving approvals from Parks Victoria, concerns over dredging and reluctance by the state government to back the project financially has caused plans to stall.

Hastings MP, Liberal Neale Burgess, promised $1 million to the Otama project during the November election campaign, but Labor’s win has put plans even further on the backburner.

“We had confirmation of the grant and that the money would remain, but it seems to have disappeared,” Mr Bryant said. “Who knows what happens? People play games…”

He said the Western Port Oberon Association was “in discussions” with various institutions about financing the submarine’s resiting to a permanent tourist pen, but “no one wants to be first” in getting the project started.

“We have no doubt that if we got money from the state government the others would follow.”

The former Royal Australian Navy submarine has been moored off Crib Point awaiting a home on land since May 2002.

Sites previously considered for Otama include near the Hastings boat launching ramps, next to the government-owned Crib Point jetty and near the Stony Point jetty and headquarters of Patrick Ports.

The association bought the 2000-tonne, 90-metre long Otama from the navy for $50,000 in 2001. It cost $300,000 to tow it from Western Australia to Western Port.

The association used part of a $500,000 Centenary of Federation grant organised by Peter Reith, then Flinders federal MP and a cabinet minister in the Howard government.

The balance of $150,000 has gone on mooring, maintenance and setting up a temporary museum and maritime memorial centre in the former BP administration centre at Crib Point, near where the sub is moored.

It was expected the Wyuna, above, would follow the Otama in to a dredged berth outside the marina sea wall once that part of the project was completed.

“We’ve still got to complete a planning permit, but we have done soil testing and design work and have gone as far as we can,” Mr Bryant said.

He said bringing the Wyuna to Hastings hinged on getting Parks Victoria’s permission to berth at the pier. “They have said no vessels longer than 15 metres are permitted there.”

While enthusiastic about the Wyuna’s imminent Bass Strait crossing, Mr Bryant is resigned to the stonewalling of government authorities and the snail’s pace of gaining permit approvals.

“If we could tie [the Wyuna] up alongside the pier we could get our plans for a school holiday camp up and running straight away,” he said.

“Children could live aboard for seven to 10 days and learn navigation, cooking, how to do a watch, all the maritime skills … We can see all sorts of benefits in it.”

Mr Bryant said the Wyuna’s refurbishment would have cost $500,000 in “real terms” but, with the help of volunteers, sponsorships and the generosity of the West Australian businesswoman who donated it to the Oberon association, Gillian Swaby, the cost is “nothing like that”.

The vessel – a scaled down version of the Royal Yacht Brittania and built at the same Glasgow shipyards on the Clyde in 1953 – was “in poor condition when acquired in 2013 but, after a complete restoration and repaint in her original colours, is shipshape”.

“The Wyuna is loved by the people of Tasmania,” Mr Bryant said. “She served as a training vessel at the Australian Maritime College in Launceston 1980 to 2004 and, when it hit the papers that she was coming here, lots of volunteers arrived to offer their services.”

Mr Bryant said Wyuna’s engines were last week started for the first time since 2004.

– with Mike Hast

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