Otama: It's all ashore for submarine 

THE  controversial  HMAS Otama submarine is set to be brought to shore but its viability as a Western Port tourism attraction remains uncertain.

In a letter to Hastings MP Neale Burgess earlier this year, state Environment Minister Ryan Smith gave consent under the Coastal Management Act to use the seabed of unreserved Crown land south of the Hastings Marina for the berthing of the Otama and a submarine information centre, to be known as the Victorian Maritime Centre.

Mr Smith wrote that a separate application to develop the site under the act would be required before development could proceed.

The good news was a long time coming for the Western Port Oberon Association, which has been lobbying to bring the submarine ashore for the past decade. 

Acquired as a gift from the Commonwealth in 2002, the submarine has sat dormant, anchored off Crib Point. Its tumultuous history since arriving in Western Port includes being placed on eBay as a political stunt by the association in 2008 to bring attention to the vessel's plight.

Mr Burgess said it was a momentous time for the association. "This is what we have been waiting for. Finally we have a government that is supporting this project and progress is being made."

Western Port Oberon Association project development team chairman Jim Schaefer said the consent of use was the first stage of getting the sub operating as a tourism attraction.

"We now have to go through a series of studies, ensure the site allocated is environmentally sustainable and engage local stakeholders who are willing to support the project. It will probably take six to eight months of studies to assess whether it is viable."

Mr Burgess stressed it was the association's responsibility to file the paperwork and gain the necessary approvals. "I am hoping the association can get the Otama operating as a tourism attraction as soon as possible."Mr Schaefer said he was confident the association would be able to generate the funding for the project.

"This is a multimillion-dollar project. We will be talking to the state and federal governments to see what funding support they can provide. The studies will cost a significant amount and a consultant has been engaged to do that work. If it turns out the site is not feasible then we will consider other sites. We are very determined to have it brought to shore and adamant that it stays in Hastings."

Mr Schaefer said if all the necessary protocols were met, the Otama could be operating as a tourism attraction within two years.

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