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Coogee beach navy ship sinking for diving playground

Why Does This Sydney Mayor Want to Sink a Ship Off One of Sydney’s Most Pristine Beaches?


Imagine you’re the mayor of a posh beachside town in Sydney with $10 million to invest in community projects. What would you choose? a) Construct a new sports facility, b) upgrade local welfare services, c) host a town fair, or d) submerge a navy ship off one of Sydney’s best beaches to create an artificial reef for scuba divers?

Amazingly, the Gordons Bay Scuba Diving Club is advocating for that final option in Randwick. As first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, the club wants an artificial reef just 4 kilometres off Coogee Beach constructed from one of Australia’s disused navy ships. Even more surprisingly, the Randwick Labor mayor, Dylan Parker, is in full support.

And why not? According to Parker, the artificial reef would provide new recreational opportunities for scuba diving and snorkelling, enhance marine biodiversity, and boost tourism. However, deliberation has been suspended until the next meeting in April due to environmental concerns raised by the Greens’ council members. Here’s everything you should know about the proposal.

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Coogee beach navy ship diving location

The sunken ship will not be visible from shore, and divers will reach the location by boat from Rose Bay or Botany Bay | Image: Supplied

Sydney scuba divers have been demanding a dive wreck in Sydney since 2005. Plans are now underway to present a petition signed by over 13,900 individuals to the NSW parliament to fulfil their deep-sea desires.

John Rowe, the founder of Gordons Bay Scuba Diving Club, said the state government should finance the project since it would draw tourists and yield an economic return far greater than the projected cost of constructing an artificial reef. Nonetheless, three councillors, led by the Greens’ Rafaela Pandolfini, are blocking the project after filing a rescission motion owing to environmental and cost concerns.

What exactly is proposed here that has the Greens so anxious? Although the sunken ship will not be visible from shore, and divers will reach the location by boat from Rose Bay or Botany Bay, the mayor’s proposal includes obtaining an ex-navy ship, removing unwanted components, and sinking it at the intended site. Numerous navy vessels are available, including Armidale patrol boats, survey motor launches, and hydrographic ships.

However, some councillors and residents are uneasy about the project’s environmental and financial impact. Ryan Elliott, a spokesman for the Coogee Precinct, said the funds would be better spent improving Coogee’s “poor” water quality.

While several ex-navy ships have been sunk off Australia’s coast to serve as artificial reefs and dive wrecks, such as HMAS Adelaide off Avoca Beach on the Central Coast and HMAS Canberra off Barwon Heads in Victoria, the Greens’ Rafaela Pandolfini informed the SMH that no research had been done on the proposal’s environmental consequences, but “the stories of past issues with navy ships being sunk aren’t exactly encouraging.

“There are already water quality problems at Coogee Beach due to stormwater runoff, which the council is finding to be very expensive to deal with,” she added.

Rowe disagreed, saying, “There is no harm to the environment from a dive wreck. The only harm is from well-intentioned but misinformed opponents who have not read the scientific literature but insist on arguing that it is negative to the marine environment.”

All in all, the proposed sunken ship would provide a new attraction for scuba divers and could boost tourism to a Sydney beach that isn’t called Bondi. Nevertheless, environmental impact and cost remain contentious issues among residents and councillors. If this plan goes ahead, you might want to upgrade your diving watch.

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