AN almost decade-long vision became a reality on Monday when the Murray River wharf at Koondrook was officially opened.
Hundreds gathered for the momentous celebration, which was marked by the return of locally-built paddle steamer, the PS Alexander Arbuthnot.
The $2 million project received $1 million in funding from the Federal Government and $500,000 from the State Government, while Gannawarra Shire Council contributed $500,000.
It was conceived and driven by the Koondrook Development Committee as a way of boosting tourism and celebrating the community's past.
Committee president, Bryan Goble said the concept of rebuilding the original Koondrook wharf was first mooted in the 1980s, but that was deemed impractical.
"Instead we have a wharf that is usable and works with a range of river levels," he said.
The wharf features a moored pontoon, 28-metre gangway and a series of viewing platforms among the red gums at water's edge.
"I want to thank the community for being courageous and industrious and being patient with the process, because this idea was first raised with the shire eight or nine years ago and we've kept putting it out there," Mr Goble said.
"We have such a strong group in this community that puts a lot of time, money and effort toward projects."
Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad represented the Federal Government at the opening.
"Well done to the community that has believed in this project," he said.
"The turnout today says Koondrook has a very bright future and you're passionate about making the community great."
State Parliamentary Secretary for Regional Victoria, Danielle Green said the wharf would be an invaluable tourism asset, and would also encourage city-dwellers to relocate permanently to Koondrook.
"The tourism potential of the Murray River is unlimited and we have not properly tapped into it yet, so that's why projects like this are so important," she said.
Murray Regional Tourism board chair, Wendy Greiner commended the Koondrook community for its vision, especially given some had reservations about the project.
"Development takes courage, guts, foresight and vision and the vision shown here will place Koondrook in great stead for the future," she said.
Gannawarra mayor, Cr Brian Gibson said the opening marked a remarkably swift transformation of the river precinct.
"It's hard to believe just 12 months ago this was just another river bank," he said.
"This is a very significant day for Koondrook and the Gannawarra Shire."