Kangaroo Island Connect ferry operator, Cape Jervis locals in ‘hostile’ meeting over boat ramp use

CONTENCIOUS: The Cape Jervis boat ramp, which fishermen are concerned will be blocked.
CONTENCIOUS: The Cape Jervis boat ramp, which fishermen are concerned will be blocked.

Fishermen have expressed concerns over the impact a new ferry service would have on access to the Cape Jervis boat ramp.

Tensions were high at a forum run by Kangaroo Island Connect (KIC) on November 28, where managing director David Harris presented information and took questions from the crowd of about 80 people.

Mr Harris’ ferry service will see a 25-metre catamaran transport 95 passengers at a time from Cape Jervis to Penneshaw in 30 minutes at a significantly lower cost than the current ferry service run by SeaLink.

Gary Lloyd and Scott Weaver, who operate fishing charters in the area, said it was a “hostile” meeting, and Mr Harris agreed it got “pretty heated”.

A similar forum was held on Kangaroo Island and the community response was positive.

Main concerns raised at Cape Jervis included the blocking of the boat ramp and the lack of car parking.

Mr Weaver has run Southern Fishing Charters in the area for 25 years, originally running from Cape Jervis but now launches from Wirrina Cove due to the size of his boat – which is smaller than Mr Harris’s catamaran. 

Mr Weaver said there were at least six charter businesses operating from Cape Jervis and the same amount of commercial fishermen, plus huge numbers of recreational fishers during summer.

He said when the ferry comes in at various times of the day, it would cut off access to the boat ramp.

“We’ve got to wait for passengers to get on and off. (Mr Harris’) statement was it would take five minutes to unload and five minutes to load – that won’t happen,” he said. “We don’t mind anyone having a crack at making money, but it’ll stop us. It’ll put us late on the water.”

There is more space at Wirrina Cove, Mr Weaver said, and he estimated launching from there would only add half an hour to the trip.

“I don’t mind them operating, but I don’t know why they don’t go from Wirrina Cove. The infrastructure is all there,” he said. “He says it will bring business to Cape Jervis. But they (travellers) don’t stop here, they come here to get on ferry.”

Mr Lloyd, who has run Fleurieu Charters for 35 years, said he didn’t think the service was a bad thing but the forum was not positive.

“The questions that were fired at them (KIC), they couldn’t answer,” he said.

“Based on the meeting, a lot of locals are sceptical whether it will get off the ground or not.”

He said parking at the boat ramp was already sparse, and the addition of people using the passenger-only service meant they would need to leave their cars somewhere.

“There’s plenty of scope for them to put in parking north of the lighthouse,” he said.

“There’s already an overflow (of cars) from the SeaLink ferry.”

Mr Harris said a lot of concerns raised were legitimate. 

“They think our boat is going to block them out of the boat ramp and they’ve got a point,” he said.

“They felt like they were being hijacked and it’s up to me to settle them down and come up with something.”

Mr Harris said dredging still needed to take occur, so operation would not begin before the end of January as planned.

He said that “right up to the Premier, the government wants it to happen” and he wanted to make it work with the local community.

“The last thing I want to do is start a fight with Cape Jervis,” he said.

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