Precinct plan ‘threat’ to sailing program


Helping hands: Volunteers John Lissenburg, Denis Collins and Kevin Baensch prepare boats for the Sailability program. It can involve up to 20 volunteers, 35 clients and seven carers on any one day.

THERE are concerns the proposed Hastings Foreshore Precinct Plan will bring an end to Hastings Yacht Club’s 15-year-old Sailability program and “even threaten the future of the club as a whole”.

Secretary Martin Jones said the club had “invested a lot of time and money into making our facility accessible to sailors of all abilities, including our junior program that is open to the Hastings community, and our Sailability program, which is the only one on the eastern side of the Peninsula.

“Unlike other Sailability programs in Victoria and around the country, ours is a free service.”

Mr Jones said the Sailability program – in which up to 280 mentally and physically disabled members enjoy the experience of sailing their own boat in the harbour – would be jeopardised by the proposed foreshore precinct plan which he says would block their access to the boats.

“Of the proposed public walkway currently being considered by Mornington Peninsula Shire, an 80-metre stretch would run between our tiny clubhouse and the shore which would deny those in wheelchairs access to the pontoon from where the boats are launched,” Mr Jones said.

“The proposed slipway extension would block the existing pontoon from where the Sailability boats are boarded and where wheelchair-bound clients are craned into these specially designed craft.

“This would leave us no choice but to turn away these disabled sailors and abandon our Sailability program: something that the club is very proud of and which is highly valued by the community.

“Not only this, but public safety would be put at risk by mixing pedestrians (including children and pets) with boats and machinery.”

The yacht club wants to divert the walkway a “mere 50 metres around the clubhouse [to] connect with the Westernport Bay Trail”.

“This would keep all members of the community safe and allow our sailors, including those in Sailability, to access the water,” Mr Jones said.

Hastings Yacht Club recently held a morning tea to launch this summer’s program. It was attended by the mayor Cr Bev Colomb and representatives of the disability providers as well as Gavin Wall, who is on the executive of Sailability in Victoria.

Kevin Baensch, who has run the Hastings program from its inception in 2003, said the free program allowed adults and children of all ages and abilities to take control of specially modified boats and sail them on the water, with volunteers alongside them for support.

“We couldn’t charge for this service as the boats were donated by the Hastings Community and the 20 volunteers provide their time freely,” he said.

Cr Colomb praised the club for its community mindedness and said she was impressed by the commitment of members to this and other activities, which keep costs and fees low.

Mr Baensch said the sailability program “is about more than just the sailors”.

“Some of our volunteers drive several hours every fortnight just to be there for Sailability days, and they enjoy helping out as much as the sailors love a chance to get out on the water and be their very own sail boat.”

The proposal currently before council would deny our disabled sailors that opportunity and create an unnecessary safety risk to the community, Mr Jones said.

First published in the Western Port News – 31 October 2017


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