Scuttling stuff-up in league of its own

THE State Government has been unable to say how much taxpayers will be left out of pocket for the sinking of ex-HMAS Tobruk after last month's attempt left it on its side, raising concerns with local dive operators.

The ship was scuttled on June 29 off Bundaberg and Hervey Bay in a bid to boost tourism and join Queensland's artificial reefs.

HMAS Tobruk is sunk in waters off Queensland.
HMAS Tobruk is sunk in waters off Queensland.

However, it is understood that during the sinking, which has been labelled "a complete disaster", the starboard side filled up with water too quickly and could not be corrected before rolling.

Maritime and disposals specialist Birdon was awarded the contract for the scuttling. However, it referred questions to the Department of Environment and Science.

About $3.41 million has been invested in the project by the Government so far.

Lady Musgrave Experience owner Brett Lakey, who has one of four exclusive permits to dive the site, said the landing was not what was promised.

The sinking of the ship was labelled a disaster.
The sinking of the ship was labelled a disaster.

"It's certainly not what anyone wanted (laying on its side)," he said. "They have to move fast - the longer it stays, it gets settled in the sand."

Mr Lakey, who has been in the diving industry for more than 20 years, said 200 tonnes of sand was placed in the ship's ballast to help it sink straight down.

"I know (Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service) are … working with every option to see whether they will right it or leave it on its side.

"The perception has been that it's been a bit of a stuff-up. It certainly limits and restricts any penetrations. If we don't think it could work we could hand back permits."

At the time, Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch said the scuttling was an exciting achievement for the Government. However, Mr Bennett questioned why the Government claimed it was a success when it was a "complete disaster".

He said taxpayers' money had been well spent for a bad result.

Bundaberg Aqua Scuba's Julian Negri said while in a perfect world the ship would have landed on its hull, many ship wrecks around the world were on their sides.



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