RECREATIONAL boaters have slammed the design of the new Pelican boat ramp, saying it could put lives at risk in strong currents.
Marks Point Fisherman's Warehouse owner Jason Nunn says there are multiple problems with the ramp, which opened in March, and locals have abandoned it.
He says the pontoons which jut out into the lake have made launching and retrieving difficult because currents push boats dangerously against or away from them.
A concrete lip, which indicates the end of the ramp, is a risk to a returning boat's motor and the ramp should run to the bottom of the channel rather than having a vertical drop-off.
The ramp isn't steep enough, and a garden and steel bollards in the approach area hamper access for those with longer boats," Mr Nunn says.
"There's a code of how ramps should be built from Roads and Maritime and it's supposed to be user-friendly for boats of all sizes," he said.
"If you're 70, and you've got a 10 or 12 foot tinnie and you're going to try and launch that by yourself in that current, you know what's going to happen - you're going to die, you're going to fall over, you're going to break a leg or a hip.
"You can't launch there, it's ridiculous.
"I've spoken to council and said you've got a duty of care, you need to close this ramp for further investigation until it's made safe."
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Lake Macquarie council says it has received feedback on the ramp and is working to rectify the issues. In a television news report on Monday, it instructed people with large boats to consider other ramps nearby.
"We have approved the addition of a high-density polyethylene skirt along the sides of the two pontoons to stop vessels being trapped under the pontoon fendering," a spokesperson told the Herald.
"Dock-wheels will also be added to the outer corners of the pontoons to allow vessels to roll against the pontoon rather than getting pinned to it, which will assist in moving boats from the outer edges of the pontoons to the inside."
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The ramp cost more than $1.2 million and was part-funded with $400,000 from the NSW government's Boating Now program.
But Malcolm Poole, a safety officer with the Recreational Fishing Alliance of NSW, says the ramp could become a "white elephant".
"It's a poor design," he said.
"Whether it's been designed for money or designed for the job is the big question.
"A boat ramp should be designed to cater for boats, not boats of a certain size. If we're spending a million bucks, surely we're not designing it to just launch a 12 foot tinnie."
Roads and Maritime's NSW Boat Ramp Facility Guidelines, which provide general guidance on the design of ramps, says that "ideally, a boat ramp site should:not be located where prevailing currents (e.g. from tides, waves or freshwater flows) run across the ramp; and not be located in an area of active shoreline erosion or accretion".
Both Mr Poole and Mr Nunn say a design like the ramps at Blacksmiths or Coon Island with protection from the current would have been the best option.
"The [old] Pelican boat ramp was put in a location that was not such a dynamic location 50 or 60 years ago, but today because of the changes in the channel it has become a very dynamic situation," Mr Poole said.
"You would have thought someone would have said 'well, maybe we need to contemplate structuring a rock wall all the way around the area and making it an embayment so it's a nice, calm location to launch into and retrieve from'."
Mr Nunn added: "I don't understand in this day and age how we can get it so wrong. The whole idea of it was to cut into the shoreline of Pelican and have the base of the ramp the same depth as the channel floor.
"So when the water comes past, it steps in. So as you drive your boat in and out, you go out of the current."
The council spokesperson said a "safe harbour proposed at concept stage" did not fit the site once the area was surveyed.
"Before construction began there were detailed investigations undertaken by the contractor that indicated the erosive forces to be greater than initially perceived," they said.
"Subsequently the boat ramp needed to be redesigned to include the wave-attenuating pontoons on each side of the ramp, replacing the proposed groynes in the original concept design.
"The pontoons add to the useability, as they provide an area for boats to be able to drop off and pick up passengers at the foreshore."
Mr Poole says the issues are reminiscent of problems with other new boat ramps across the state, which he believes is the result of the state government shifting responsibility to local councils.
"It's no different to what they did at Terrigal boat ramp, [or] what they did at Norah Head boat ramp," he said of design faults.
"Maritime have dissolved their responsibility about good boating infrastructure to local councils and all local councils are stuffing the system. They're spending boaters' money and ratepayers' money [too].
"I don't think their is any level of responsibility, common sense or accountability."
Mr Poole also questioned whether the council's solution would work.
"That tide's going to rush in and rush out every day of the week, twice a day, and you think a curtain's going to divert the water? C'mon, give me a break," he said.