Cerberus protection group gets sinking feeling
Photo John Woudstra
By Kylie Northover - The Age
Hopes of raising the wreck of colonial naval ship HMVS Cerberus have been scuttled with the government deeming a plan to build a stabilising platform too dangerous.
The historic wreck, once Australia's most powerful ship, was sunk as a breakwater at Half Moon Bay off Black Rock in 1926.
Protected under the Victorian Heritage Act, the Cerberus has been sinking since its hull collapsed in 1993.
In 2008, then heritage minister Peter Garrett pledged $500,000 to the National Trust to advance a project to stabilise the wreck.
Friends of the Cerberus, a volunteer group working to preserve the wreck, had then tried to raise $6.5 million, but were unsuccessful.
Instead, plans were made to spend the $500,000 on bracing the ship's gun turrets, which, says group president John Rogers, are in imminent danger of collapsing.
''The plan was to raise it up and put it on a platform before it collapses,'' Mr Rogers said. Failing to stabilise it, he said, would be ''destruction by neglect''.
Engineering company BMT Design and Technology had designed a bracing system and was ready to begin the work.
But last week the Victorian branch of the National Trust received a letter from the Department of Sustainability and Environment, advising that the department had changed its mind on spending the money on structural support work, saying ''the proposals would be excessively invasive in terms of heritage values … and potentially dangerous for the people''.
The department proposes using the funds to ''continue and enhance the existing corrosion management processes and to establish a high-quality interpretative device on the shore … adjacent to the vessel''.
The interpretation could include mounting guns which were removed in 2005, (at present on the sea bed), in nearby parkland.