CUMBEROONA: 'Abandon this sinking ship'

ALBURY councillor Darren Cameron will tonight push for the immediate scrapping of the Cumberoona.

Cr Cameron said the council could no longer justify financially propping up the paddlesteamer when it had started cost-cutting measures in other areas.

The boat’s fate hangs in the balance with staff recommending a further report on options after the latest search for a suitable operator failed.

Cr Cameron will seek support for an alternative motion to dispose of it right now.

“From day one this boat has been a disaster,” he said.

“On the day it was launched the cradle collapsed and it had to be pushed into the river by a bulldozer.

“This was a portent of things to come.

“It has never made a profit and never will make a profit.

“It has cost the ratepayers of Albury over $2.5 million including $282,178 in 1992 to purchase the boat.”

The boat’s most recent qualified captain, Ray Slade, was behind the Murray River Steam Navigation’s bid which was pulled at the 11th hour.

A Friends of the Cumberoona submission was deemed non-compliant.

The council could struggle to re-coup the $200,000 spent on recent upgrades to the Cumberoona if the sale of another paddlesteamer at Mildura was any guide.

The Avoca, the second oldest paddlesteamer on the Murray River, was bought at auction recently for $55,000, but sank late last week.

“We will never get anything like what we paid for it in 1992,” Cr Cameron said.

“Even if we were to give it away we would be more than $160,000 per year better off given that is what it would cost to operate.

“It is simply unfair on the people of Albury, at a time when service reviews on all areas of council operations are being undertaken in an effort to balance the books, to throw ratepayers’ money at something a few eccentrics want to enjoy as an expensive toy.

“Calling for another round of expressions of interest only delays the inevitable.”

Cr Cameron said the Cumberoona had inherent occupational, health and safety risks and remained steam powered when others still operating had been converted to diesel.

“The No.1 problem is the boat has a draught of 1.9 metres,” he said.

“Over the last decade there have relatively few months when the river was at a suitable level to sail.

“If the boat was to sail again it would also require significant supporting infrastructure such as jetties and access points.

“There are those who think that the boat could be put on display when not working.

“But ideas like blocking our main flood-mitigation canal are dangerously idiotic.”