RESCUE REFORM: The notorious Wide Bay Bar, between Inskip Point and Fraser Island, has been the scene of many Coast Guard rescues, escorts and emergency assistance missions.
RESCUE REFORM: The notorious Wide Bay Bar, between Inskip Point and Fraser Island, has been the scene of many Coast Guard rescues, escorts and emergency assistance missions. Arthur Gorrie

'Bad management and ignorance' threaten boaties

THE Queensland Government has just released a potentially explosive and life saving report which raises serious questions about the safety of recreational boaties and the adequacy of the state's maritime rescue services.

The 89-page report was first made public in The Gympie Times on Wednesday morning, was officially made public that afternoon by Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford.

A spokesman said the report, which highlights strong criticisms of some rescue service administrative organisations, was vital to boaties and to "thousands of Queenslanders (who) are involved in volunteer marine rescue.

The report substantially backed concerns first raised by former Tin Can Bay Coastguard commander Phil Feldman, who was ousted by the coastguard's governing body, the Australian Volunteer Coastguard Association, for raising concerns about financial management and governance with politicians, including Mr Crawford, Opposition Shadow Minister Lachlan Millar and Bay coastguard patron, Gympie MP Tony Perrett.

The "Blue Water Review” report, by retired Navy commodore Campbell Darby, makes strong criticisms of allegedly dangerous organisational problems and the ignorance of many recreational mariners who, it says, often do not know even how to contact rescue services in an emergency.

The report said "a lack of transparency and co-ordination” meant the services were prone to "duplication of effort, increasing the risk of mismanagement and inappropriate responses in a critical event.”

It recommended reforms to financial transparency, as advocated by Mr Feldman (and other Tin Can Bay rescue volunteers) of the state's two rival marine rescue organisations, the Australian Volunteer Coastguard Association (with which the Can Bay rescue service is affiliated) and the Volunteer Marine Rescue Association of Queensland.

The report blasted outdated operating processes contributing to inefficiencies and danger, errors in communication, cluttered radio airwaves and a lack of operational transparency,

It also recommended an education and marketing strategy to ensure recreational mariners were more radio-savvy, allowing them better access to weather reports, tidal information, navigation hazard information and better monitoring of bar corssings.

It said both rescue management organisations suffered from "poor internal communication, dated constitutions and a lack of transparency.”

Releasing the report yesterday, QFES Acting Commissioner Mark Roche said the comprehensive and broad-based review had included a thorough investigation of marine rescue arrangements in Queensland.

"The Review examined and identified issues in the provision of marine search and rescue services by the two volunteer organisations: The Australian Volunteer Coast Guard Association (AVCGA) and the Volunteer Marine Rescue Association Queensland (VMRAQ),,” Mr Roche said.

"Extensive consultation was conducted with volunteers of both organisations, other government agencies and boating related groups to ensure a broad range of viewpoints.

"QFES recognises how important the services provided by our marine rescue volunteers are and is committed to ensuring volunteer marine rescue has a sustainable and robust future.

"This report provides QFES with a strong understanding of the issues which need to be considered to help deliver that future in close partnership with marine rescue volunteers and their local communities.”

Mr Roche said QFES would form a working group, which would include rank and file members of both services, to consider the observations raised in the report.

"The working group will work with QFES to form the future of volunteer marine rescue services in Queensland by the middle of 2019,” he said.

"This report, along with broader consultation and engagement with volunteers and key stakeholders, will assist QFES in identifying any areas where new ideas can be utilised and integrated to support marine rescue volunteers and their communities moving forward.

"Marine rescue volunteers are a tremendous asset and their commitment, motivation and passion for providing a safety net for the boating public cannot be underestimated.

"We have plenty of astute thinkers and well-intentioned volunteers across both organisations and we want to see them flourish.”

A link to the review can be found at https://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/Pages/Review-VMR.aspx

Gympie Times


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