AS A resident and business owner on Phillip Island I would like to offer my in principle support for the car ferry proposal that is currently being investigated to operate from Cowes to Stony Point. The recent Bass Coast Shire Council discussion paper provides the necessary statistical support for the points made in this letter.
The proposed car ferry offers many opportunities to the Island. In summary:
It offer visitors to Victoria a world-class touring route from the Great Ocean Road through to Queenscliff and to Sorrento through the Mornington Peninsula and then the missing link to Phillip Island by car ferry. There is then the option of travelling further to Wilsons Promontory and beyond (and by extension, Sydney and further afield). Phillip Island would no longer be a “one-way destination”, but instead the new gateway to Bass Coast and beyond. In fact, Phillip Island would then feature as a destination of part of one of the longest vehicle touring routes in the world. A reliable link from Cowes to Stony Point also permits access to Melbourne-bound trains: which benefits local and regional intrastate tourism.
Increased spending by visitors
Even on a medium-demand scenario, an estimated $18.85 million dollars is expected to be generated as a direct benefit of the proposed ferry operation by visitors coming to Phillip Island: a direct benefit to the local business community well worth considering.
The car ferry is predicted to create 123 additional full-time jobs, both directly from the development, construction and operation of the service and indirectly to the tourism and hospitality providers (the second largest industry in Bass Coast Shire) along with other varied industries.
Emergency services & crisis management
Access and egress in relation to emergency services is yet another positive, especially during peak visitation to Phillip Island and the Mornington Peninsula. The bridge to the Island has been closed due to traffic accidents in recent times. Having only one way on and off one of the country's most visited destinations has always been a concern, especially in these days of political volatility. Imagine an urgent evacuation when the Island is at its peak of 80,000 to 100,000 visitors trying to escape via a single two-lane road and one bridge ...
Future development of our youth
Perhaps most importantly, this proposed ferry link provides potential for our young people to be gainfully employed on the Island – instead of having to head elsewhere. They would have a real, affordable alternative to study and train in some of the best facilities our state has to offer and return to Phillip Island. Retaining these skills, knowledge and insight is one of the most beneficial outcomes of all.
People actually DO want it
The discussion paper highlights the need for the ferry and shows consumer demand constitutes a viable public/private sector collaborative investment worth pursuing. In the first consultation process, there was almost 90 per cent support from responding businesses and over 70 per cent from residents. In addition it shows the proposed connection will benefit public and private sectors, see increased investment, a substantial increase in direct employment opportunities and a great tourism draw card for one of the state's most iconic regions.
Regrettably, a small number within the community do not share this sense of growth and keen optimism to see Phillip Island evolve into more than a “dead-end-destination”. While there are many questions still to be answered, and much work to be done to ensure the proposal is deployed with care and attention to meet community expectations, most of the community see Phillip Island as one of Australia's great tourism destinations worthy of investment.
I would encourage any of your readers who believe that this opportunity is one too good to pass up to join a change.org petition to the State Minister for Regional Development, Jaala Pulford, Minister for Tourism and Major Events, John Eren, and our Island Ward councillors Pamela Rothfield, Stephen Fullarton and Michael Whelan to request their support and show that this car ferry is an essential investment in Phillip Island's future.
I, for one, don't want to miss the boat.
The draft business case for a Cowes to Stony Point car ferry will be released for comment on February 17.