by Kelly Sexton
Swimmers and recreational boating enthusiasts will benefit this summer following the commencement of works to install new aids to navigation and clear signage to identify boating and swimming zones in Port Phillip Bay.
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Minister for Ports David Hodgett said the implementation of new signage will improve safety for users of the Bay from Elwood to Mount Martha.
'The Victorian Coalition Government provided $600,000 from the Boating Safety and Facilities Program for these works which have commenced in the Frankston area. Works will then continue progressively to the north at Mentone, Beaumaris and Black Rock,' Mr Hodgett said.
'The new zones will create a safer environment for users of the Bay through improved separation of boating and swimming activities in high density bathing areas, and ensure that recreational activities operate legally and safely.
'The first stage was successfully introduced between St Kilda and Port Melbourne in 2010. More sections have been introduced across Port Phillip and Western Port over the past 12 months from Safety Beach to Blairgowrie; Werribee to Williamstown; and along the northern coastline of Phillip Island.
'As the third stage is rolled out, the new zones will provide a clearer distinction between boating and swimming zones and safer waters across the entire eastern side of Port Phillip,' Mr Hodgett said.
Parks Victoria, in partnership with Transport Safety Victoria, completed a comprehensive two-year review of all boating and swimming zones across Port Phillip and Western Port.
The zones have been prioritised according to the level of usage and the diversity of activities within the individual zones. Further boating and swimming zones will be introduced in stages across Port Phillip and Western Port in future years until all zones have been updated.
Parks Victoria has consulted widely with the community, including local government, businesses including boat operators, and life-saving clubs when developing the new zones. This feedback provided valuable information about the diverse needs of bay users and was incorporated into the review, positively influencing many key changes.
Parks Victoria’s Manager of Local Ports Program Will Cox said over 70 million people visit the magnificent waters of Port Phillip and Western Port every year, so it’s important to ensure that the boating and swimming zones provide a clear and balanced framework to maximise both safety and enjoyment on the water.
'Parks Victoria is committed to ensuring our bays continue to handle the increasing numbers of bay users and variety of water activities. The new boating and swimming zones will also reduce any confusion over the marking and interpretation of the existing zones,' Mr Cox said.
Swimming and boating zones will be clearly marked with new aids to navigation (piles or buoys) installed in the water. Parks Victoria will install regulatory and advisory signage on the shore and on the new aids to navigation clearly showing the new zones. Comprehensive information, including maps, will also be available on the Parks Victoria website.
The three principal zones are: ‘swimming only’ where no vessels are permitted; ‘boating only’ where only boating activities are permitted but speeds are limited to five knots; and ‘shared zones’ where boating and/or swimming is allowable, and vessel speeds are limited to five knots usually within 200 metres from the shore.
The five knot zone is 500 metres between Safety Beach and Blairgowrie, due to the low water depths and the number of swimmers in the area.
The term ‘vessel’ refers to all powered and unpowered boats and includes yachts, kite boards, personal water craft (including jetskis) and paddle craft.
Special provisions have been made for ‘shared wind sport’ areas for kite boarders and wind surfers which allows them to exceed five knots within 200 metres of the shore.
Parks Victoria is the local port and waterway manager for Port Phillip and Western Port.
For further information about the new boating and swimming zones, click here.