5 June 2007

Fears for Cerberus

Jonathan Andrews
One of the most important naval vessels in existence is getting perilously close to being lost forever. It is tantamount to historical vandalism by omission

- Liberal MP Andrea Coote

The HMVS Cerberus wreck at Half Moon Bay, Black Rock.

Picture: JASON SAMMON N49SB314


VICTORIA'S most famous warship, HMVS Cerberus, may disappear beneath the waves at Black Rock within one year.

And campaigners say the State Government is doing nothing to prevent it happening.

Friends of the Cerberus vice-president John Toogood says the historic Black Rock wreck is in such danger of collapse that in theory a pigeon resting on it could make it sink.

Last year, an underwater photographic survey of the vessel showed remains of the hull to be rotting away, he said.

Mr Toogood said a $7 million government cash injection was needed urgently to raise and support it on a steel cradle or another large storm could mean the 1868-built ship would be "gone for good".

And Southern Metropolitan Region Liberal MP Andrea Coote said there was an urgent need for money for a support structure.

State Government spokesman Bill Kyriakopoulos said the Cerberus situation was being monitored, with a study into stabilising the ship under way. He said the Government expected to receive the results "in coming months" to "clarify the options available" before deciding the next move.

Mr Toogood said the study was "all well and good", but the Government had "sat on its hands" for two years and was not acting quickly enough.

Ms Coote said the former warship now used as a breakwater was listed by the National Trust in December 2005 and the Government had responsibility to maintain the piece of maritime history. "One of the most historically important naval vessels in existence is getting perilously close to being lost forever" Ms Coote said.

"It is a disgrace and is tantamount to historical vandalism by omission."

Mr Toogood called on the Government to provide half the funding required and called on the Federal Government to pay the rest.

Goldstein federal Liberal MP Andrew Robb said while he could not guarantee Commonwealth cash for the project, if the State Government put in money it "would significantly help the Cerberus case in applying for federal funding". He said it could "fall over at any time".

The state of the vessel the first fully armoured fighting ship built for Australia has been in decline since 1993, when its hull collapsed.