Closure of Murray River a possibility for 2013 Southern 80

1 March 2012

A disappointing number of alcohol-related fines clocked up at this year’s Southern 80 water ski event could see Roads and Maritime Services close a large section of the Murray River for future events.

Maritime Murray/ Inland Regional Manager Scott Kidd said the possible closure of the river in future to all but competitor craft was discussed at the recent Southern 80 debrief.

“While the majority of spectators who flocked to the area to take part in this year’s event were well behaved, there was a disappointing element of alcohol-related boating activity,” Mr Kidd said.

“Maritime Boating Safety Officers worked together with Police throughout the event, conducting a total of 116 on-water safety checks of spectator vessels.”

“There were 11 infringements recorded during these checks, mostly for failing to comply with safety equipment requirements, such as lifejackets and lighting at night.

“There were also 116 random breath tests conducted on skippers who were underway, with 10 returning prescribed concentrations of alcohol above the 0.05 legal limit.”
The Southern 80, which is the biggest water ski race in Australia, is a two-day event which sees water-ski competitors race on the Murray River from Torrumbarry to Echuca.

Mr Kidd said the Southern 80, which now is classified as a Major Event for NSW, traditionally has safety exclusion zones in place for much of the day across the 80 kilometres of the Murray River where competitors water ski.

However, once racing is over for the day, there is a lot of general boating activity on the water and it is during this time that much of the alcohol-related misadventure occurs.

“We would prefer to educate than regulate, but given this year’s performance, this may no longer be possible,” Mr Kidd said.

“If the decision is made to not close the river for next year’s Southern 80, Roads and Maritime Services will commit more resources in the form of on-water night patrols to maximise the safety of this popular event.”

“Maritime recognises people are perhaps in a festive mood at such events but all skippers must remain safe and responsible at all times.”

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