A COMBINATION of kafkaesque bureuacracy and bungling caused the destruction of an historic pearling lugger on a Bunbury beach, says former WA premier Peter Dowding.
Last week the lugger Kestrel Mannina broke up in Koombana Bay after being washed ashore during earlier stormy weather.
Its destruction was heartbreaking for wooden boat fanatic Dave Thompson, who’d had it restored in Fremantle.
The sorry saga started when Mr Thompson, unable to afford crippling pen fees at Fremantle Fishing Boat Harbour, headed south for a berth.
Mr Dowding, who lives in South Fremantle, says his pal was kicked out of Bunbury harbour by the WA transport department because the vessel was uninsured.
“Dave couldn’t get insured because the insurance company wouldn’t look at it unless it was on the hard stand, but he couldn’t get to the hard stand because bloody Transport wouldn’t let him into the harbour because he wasn’t insured,” Mr Dowding fumed.
Mr Thompson anchored outside the harbour, hoping to get the impasse sorted, but a storm hit a few days later and the lugger was washed ashore.
Mr Dowding tried to co-ordinate a rescue effort, but Transport warned all volunteers off because of the insurance issue. The former premier reckons that’s against the seafarer’s code of going to help anyone in distress.
Pounding waves finished the Kestrel off last week and there’s nothing but splinters to salvage.
Mr Dowding says the whole saga might have been avoided if Transport hadn’t bungled planning at Fishing Boat Harbour.
A wooden boat fan himself, he says while he was Labor’s transport minister during the America’s Cup he was under pressure to kick the wooden boat builders and fishing fleet out of the harbour to make way for pleasure cruisers.
“We planned Fishing Boat Harbour to be a link with the old and the new, but Transport have let the Barbagallo wank-tanks take over,” he told the Herald.
“We had mandated that was not going to happen—it was not going to be Glitzville.”
But in the years since he says the department has allowed massive boat-stackers and giant pleasure cruisers to dominate the area.
The resulting rise of fees has killed off smaller owners.
Mr Dowding laments the demise of the wooden boat industry in Fremantle, noting it disappeared from Victoria Quay a decade ago when Fremantle Ports decided it wanted the land for itself.
“But as the Maritime Museum shows, they are a really important part of our heritage.”
Transport was contacted for comment.
by STEVE GRANT