Interview with Bruce Hammond – Chairperson of Lakes Entrance Fishermen’s Limited29/01/2021
Located at the ocean entrance to the Gippsland Lakes and the gateway to Lakes Entrance, Bullock Island has an undeniably rich fishing history.
It’s still home to one of Australia’s busiest fishing ports and is responsible for producing around 3,500 tonnes of seafood each year; contributing around $40 million to the Victorian economy.
The area is now reinventing itself as a recreational fishing mecca and tourist attraction and hopes to attract thousands of new visitors to the region by capitalising on its unique maritime traditions.
The Lakes Entrance Fishermens Limited (formerly LEFCOL) owns and operates the commercial fish processing and distribution facility on Bullock Island – and is an important voice in the transformation of Bullock Island.
RDV sat down with the group’s chairperson, Bruce Hammond, to get the download on Bullock Island and to find out what makes it one of Gippsland’s best kept secrets – whether you’re a keen angler on not!
Can you tell us a little about the history of Bullock Island and its importance to the local region?
Bullock Island is for the most part man-made; it’s happened through the placement of sand from entrance dredging operations over the past century. The area is well known for maritime history and is home to Gippsland Ports, Lakes Entrance Fishermen Limited and the TAFE Gippsland.
The island is located at the ocean entrance to the Gippsland Lakes and at the gateway to Lakes Entrance. Jemmy’s Point, which is at the top of Kalimna, overlooks Bullock Island, providing amazing scenic views of the Gippsland Lakes and the entrance. Because of this, it’s a great spot for tourists keen to explore the area and often visited for fishing, crabbing and sight-seeing.
What makes the redevelopment of Bullock Island so exciting?
Bullock Island has excellent water views, abundant wildlife and waterways with plenty of opportunities to see local maritime wildlife like seals and dolphins as well as our fishing industries in action.
The redevelopment will greatly improve the area for visitors. With the redevelopment, we plan to build parking for buses and cars as well as rest area facilities. We will also develop walking tracks, waterfront board walks and other lookout points where people will be able to experience the beautiful views of the island.
The on-water café and fishing industry viewing facilities are also being developed in parallel with the Bullock Island development, so visitors will have a chance to get a close-up view of the fishing fleet operations and enjoy a meal of freshly caught local fish in the surrounds of the entrance and Cunninghame Arm.
What’s the greatest thing about being a Gippsland local?
The greatest thing about being in East Gippsland is the access to a pristine environment on your doorstep. It caters to nearly every interest, whether it be fishing, sight-seeing, golden beaches, surf, bushwalking, camping, the iconic Buchan Caves, local fresh food, wineries, breweries and many, many other tourist attractions.
It is also only a short trip to the High Country where you can enjoy all the attractions of the snow fields. Couple all of that with a strong sense of community, nothing compares!
Your favourite thing to do at Lakes Entrance?
My favourite pastime at Lakes Entrance is a walk to the Entrance with family and friends, taking in the nature-based walking tracks, ocean beach and natural environment.
There are always seals lolling about on the rocks and the view of the boats entering the harbour is spectacular. If you’re lucky, you might also get a view of the Burrunan dolphins playing in the entrance channel. It’s around a two-hour walk, so we typically follow all that exertion with a feed of fish and chips and an ice cream for dessert.
Construction has now begun the first stage of works to improve amenities on the island, with a new public amenity block the first in a series of improvements to visitor facilities.
The Bullock Island works has been supported with an $1.87 million investment from the Victorian Government through the Building Works Package and are happening alongside the development of an on-water café, thanks to the Government’s earlier investment of $1.5 million announced during the lead up to the 2018 state election.
The Building Works package was announced in response to the coronavirus pandemic – it’s a $2.7 billion commitment to get thousands of Victorians back to work with shovel-ready projects that provide lasting benefits to communities.