Beginner level divers will be able to access more of the ex-HMAS Tobruk including features such as the propeller without any changes to the ship’s current position, according to an independent dive report.
The Palaszczuk Government is also investing $1 million dollars in the Wide Bay region to promote tourism opportunities including the new world-class ex-HMAS Tobruk as a drawcard for the region.
In making the announcement today, Minister for Environment Leeanne Enoch said Queenslanders and tourists would soon be able to explore Australia’s most exciting new dive wreck, as final work to prepare the site for diving begins.
The historically-valuable Tobruk, which was scuttled in the Great Sandy Marine Park 29 June, is expected to create 20 to 30 jobs in the region, generating about $1.7 million for the local economy every year.
Ms Enoch confirmed ex-HMAS Tobruk will remain on its starboard side, and said she’s looking forward to the ship becoming a serious tourism drawcard for Queensland.
“The Palaszczuk Government is confident that the ex-HMAS Tobruk will be an excellent dive site, and that is why we are investing $1 million to fund a promotional and marketing campaign focusing on tourism opportunities in the region, including the new dive,” she said.
“Experienced recreational divers, vessel salvage experts, naval architects and marine engineers provided Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service with expert advice after assessing the ship in its current position.
“They pointed out a number of serious risks associated with righting the ship, the main being seriously damaging the ship. On top of that, it could have been at least 12 months before the ship could be used as a dive site.
“Preparation work on the Tobruk is expected to take 40 working days, weather dependent. The site will then open to divers soon after, putting Wide Bay on the map as one of our state’s top tourism destinations.”
Ms Enoch said contractors would begin modifying the ship soon to ensure suitable diver access, light penetration and safety across the site.
“The Tobruk’s current position will now allow entry level divers to access the full length of the ship rather than a third of the length if the vessel was resting on its keel,” she said.
“Less experienced divers will also be able to view the propeller and rudder, which previously would have required greater levels of training and experience to see.”
Tasked with assessing the site was respected independent dive consultant and Chair of Dive Queensland Terry Cummins – a man credited with establishing PADI in the South Pacific and who has received an Order of Australia Medal for his extensive contributions to scuba diving in Australia.
Mr Cummins said the Tobruk would join a group of other world-class wreck dive sites where the sunken vessel was resting on its side.
“The SS President Coolidge in Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu lies on her port side and is considered one of, if not the best, recreational wreck dives in the world. And the Yongala off the Queensland coast also rests on her side, which is considered one of the best wreck dives in Australia,” he said.
“The current orientation of Tobruk will result in a different dive to that which was originally expected, but none-the-less, it will be just as enjoyable and will remain a highly suitable and extremely attractive wreck dive.”
Fraser Coast Regional Council Mayor George Seymour said “The Fraser Coast is working with the State Government to grow our tourism industry as we recognise that there is significant potential for sustainable jobs.”
“Diving this wreck is another reason why visitors will come to enjoy this part of Queensland.”
Bundaberg Region Mayor Jack Dempsey thanked the Government for contributing $1 million towards a tourism marketing campaign.
“The independent dive report makes it clear that ex-HMAS Tobruk remains a highly suitable and extremely attractive dive site,” Mayor Dempsey said.
“There’s no point dwelling on the past or playing a blame game.
“A tremendous opportunity now exists to market our region to the world and offer a unique wreck-dive experience.”
Hervey Bay Dive Centre’s Ed Gibson said: “‘We are very excited to receive the news regarding the Government’s resolution for the future of ex-HMAS Tobruk.”
“The decision will now allow the dive operators to get serious with the planning to commence dive tours to the ship. We cannot wait to showcase the extraordinary ex-HMAS Tobruk wreck to the divers of Australia and the world.”
Bundaberg Aqua Scuba’s Julian Negri said: “It is so exciting to have a world-class dive site here in the region and it will no doubt be a wonderful tourism asset for Bundaberg.”
Lady Musgrave Experience’s Brett Lakey said: “We welcome this announcement and I can’t wait to get out there and see what the ex-HMAS Tobruk has to offer.”
Ms Enoch said the Royal Australian Navy ship provided great service to the Australian community throughout its 34 years until 2015, and would continue to serve as a unique tourist attraction deep beneath warm Queensland waters.
“Thanks to the combined efforts of the Palaszczuk Government, Fraser Coast Regional Council and Bundaberg Regional Council, ex-HMAS Tobruk will be a prestigious asset to Queensland’s vast portfolio of tourist attractions,” she said.
Video footage for download: Divers assessing ex-HMAS Tobruk.