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Better Boating Victoria appoints CEO

Gary Gaffney has been appointed Better Boating Victoria’s Chief Executive Officer, bringing a wealth of public sector knowledge, strategic management and leadership skills to the role.

His substantial experience working with local stakeholders will be key in delivering the government’s commitments to make boating easier, safer and cheaper for all Victorians.

We caught up with Gary as he takes the helm and starts charting a course to make Victoria a premier recreational boating destination for the future.

What are you most excited about as the new CEO of Better Boating Victoria (BBV)?

I’m looking forward to the challenge of establishing a new agency to deliver recreational boating infrastructure and services for Victoria and to position BBV as the leading maritime infrastructure and services agency in Australia.

Where did you work before BBV and what position did you hold?

Prior to BBV, I was CEO of East Gippsland Shire. There, I set out a program of organisational change and created a culture of action with a customer-service focus.

Before working with East Gippsland Shire, I spent five years in Western Australia as CEO of Wyndham East Kimberley and was formerly the Executive Director (Industry and Investment) for Regional Development Victoria where I was Head of Economic Recovery following the Black Saturday bushfires.

How would your colleagues describe you if you weren’t in the room, and why?

I’ve been described as direct and results-focussed, particularly when I’m passionate about the causes I’m immersed in.

I think people would also say that I lead by example and relate constructively and positively with those around me, and with stakeholders.

What do you think success looks like at BBV?

I want BBV to deliver on the Victorian Government’s recreational boating commitments and consult with stakeholders to develop a strategy that improves recreational boating infrastructure and services for future generations.

What do you see as the opportunities and challenges at BBV and how will you address them?

The current arrangements for providing and managing recreational boating infrastructure and services are complex. They involve several agencies and an array of different land managers, and in some areas, demand exceeds capacity. Demand is seasonal and there is a need to manage competing values for access to, and use of, coastal and inland waterways and adjoining land. The opportunity and the challenge will be to effectively balance competing interests, expectations, and aspirations throughout the state.

What advice would you give to those who think BBV isn’t moving fast enough?

There will always be teething problems when establishing new policies and a new organisation. Transparency, good communication and goodwill from the boating community will be vital in the development of a long-term recreational boating strategy and to the success of BBV.

I know the expectations are high and I plan to meet them. However, implementing these unprecedented boating commitments will require consultation with stakeholders and level-headedness to get right, so I’d ask the community to be patient and work with us.

Are you a boater yourself?

Yes, I hold a current marine licence. I learned the ropes as a child on family holidays in a Halvorsen boat on Lake Eildon before moving to Paynesville as a teenager and sailing out of the Gippsland Lakes Yacht Club. I also spent a fair bit of time with my dad fishing on the Gippsland Lakes in his Savage Commander boat.

When I was in the Kimberley, I owned a Quintrex Bowrider that we used to explore the Ord River, Lake Kununurra and Lake Argyle areas. I’ve also crewed on an Ocean Racer Royal Melbourne Yacht Squadron, owned and sailed extensively on the Gippsland Lakes.

What do you love about boating?

I love the different experiences boating offers. From cruising with the family for lunch and fishing with mates for flatties, to soaring across waves in a stiff wind and making friends with dolphins and other sea life, boating is a wonderful way to spend time in the great outdoors with good people.

Tell us about a particularly memorable boating experience.

I was a young person and my Sea Scout crew raced in the Marlay Point to Metung yacht race. I remember sailing at 2.30am with nothing but the genoa jib powering our yacht along, starlight paving our way and the music of water at hull. It was just magical.

As an adult, it would have to be landing my first barramundi in the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf in the Kimberley.

What’s your favourite fish and why?

I’ve got a couple. First up is gurnard because it’s a great eating fish but you must be careful landing it because it has sharp spines.

Gippsland Lakes prawns caught off Gravelly Beach, Raymond Island, cooked and paired with a great Victorian riesling is a killer flavour combo.

Finally, fresh caught Delatite River rainbow trout pan-fried with butter on the riverbank is one of my favourite ways to end a day in the High Country.

If money was no object, where would you like to go boating and why?

First, I’d like to cruise from Nelson in the west of Victoria to Mallacoota in East Gippsland, stopping at and exploring every bay, catching great seafood and seeing who makes the best scallop pie.

Then I’d like to take a trip down the Murray River from the highest point in Gippsland to Mildura, using a variety of watercraft.

If you were shipwrecked on a deserted island what two items would you want to have with you?

The practical side of me would say a solar power mat connected to a deep-cell battery that would charge the battery-powered tools to build a shelter and a fishing platform. However, the hedonist in me would say a corkscrew and a map to the secret cellar on the island that holds all the best Australian wines!

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