Bondi View

Cruising for a Bruising

Yarra Bay. Photo: Alec Smart

BY ALEC SMART

The NSW Government faces a new challenge to its proposal to construct a mega cruise ship marina in Botany Bay. One of their principle opponents, Randwick Council, is recommending the nomination of Yarra Bay, the target site, for inclusion on the National Heritage List.

If their National Heritage status request is successful, it will effectively halt the controversial scheme and force the NSW Government to either select a new location elsewhere or abandon the multi-million-dollar project.

Massive infrastructure required

The marina plan envisions cruise ships docking at one of two adjacent sites on the northern side of Botany Bay – Molineaux Point and Yarra Bay – both requiring the construction of a massive wharf and surrounding infrastructure.

Randwick Council confirmed to City Hubthat their Deputy Mayor, Councillor Danny Said, “will bring a motion to Council on Tuesday 30 April regarding the proposed terminal. Opposition to the proposed cruise ship terminal still stands.”

Maria Poulos Conklin, spokesperson for Save The Bay Coalition, told City Hub, “The National Heritage listing of Yarra Bay will hopefully protect this historically significant area, not just from the cruise terminal but other serious threats, such as large-scale public or private projects and tourist developments in the future.

“Once the area is heritage listed, the Federal Government must make a management plan to protect it. The NSW Government or private consortium building the terminal would not be able to take any action that would have a significant impact on the heritage values of the Bay without approval from the relevant Federal Minister.

“A National listing, for this reason, is far superior to a State Heritage listing, which would have been like the fox looking after the hen house, especially now that the Premier and NSW Planning Ministers control the Heritage portfolio…

“But it is not the only reason we are seeking the heritage listing of the Bay. It should have been listed years ago – it is one of the most important historic areas in NSW.”

On April 10, the Mayor of Randwick, Kathy Neilson, wrote to the Minister for Transport and Roads, Andrew Constance, and the Minister for Jobs, Investment and Tourism, Stuart Ayers, to invite them to attend a meeting to discuss any objections to the Council’s National Heritage Status proposal.

“Council also seeks the release of the Strategic Business Case in the Cruise Development Plan, which the State Government had undertaken to release in November/December 2018…

“Respectfully, Council urges the NSW Government to commit to an open, transparent and genuine community engagement program to find an alternative site in NSW, preferably Sydney Harbour.”

A spokesperson for the Port Authority of NSW, the government body overseeing the proposed marina project, told City Hub, “The Strategic Business Case assesses two sites recommended by the Cruise Industry Reference Group, including Molineaux Point and Yarra Bay.

“The Strategic Business Case is the very first step in a detailed process for understanding the feasibility and location of new cruise infrastructure. A Detailed Business Case … will need to consider a number of key areas including consultation with the community, the environment, transport, financing, fishing, heritage, Indigenous culture, noise, social impacts and traffic.”

According to industry.nsw.gov.au website, “In 2014 the NSW Government committed to developing a Cruise Development Plan that considers options to support a long-term plan for the NSW cruise industry, as recommended by the Visitor Economy Industry Action Plan (VEIAP).

“The VEIAP forecasted that visitor-related port activity resulting from cruise operations would grow to $1.1 billion and cater for more than 825,000 passengers by 2019–20.”

To understand the projected increase in cruise ship passengers visiting Sydney, the NSW Government’s own figures state: “In 2017, Sydney Harbour hosted 367 ship visit days by 50 different ships. By 2040 the number of passengers cruising through Sydney is expected to double.”

Furthermore, the height of newer ‘mega’ cruise ships may intrude upon airspace used by passenger jets landing and taking off from Sydney Airport.

The Australian and International Pilots Association (AIPA) has expressed multiple concerns about the close proximity of berthed mega cruise ships to Sydney Airport’s third runway.

AIPA vice president Shane Loney told City Hub, “We remain concerned with any intrusions into what is known as the Obstacle Limitation Surface. This has the potential to adversely impact airport efficiency and aircraft safety during some visual manoeuvres.”

Save the Bay Coalition states on their webpage, “The terminal the Berejiklian government would construct in Yarra Bay would accommodate two mega cruise ships. While they are great money spinners for the industry, they are too large for many ports, including Sydney Harbour, and because of the number of passengers they carry (~5000), they create congestion and other problems for ports that do accept them.

“A mega cruise ship terminal will impact negatively on the operational efficiency of Port Botany, which is currently a dedicated freight handling port.

Environmental concerns

“Botany Bay is [also] home to hundreds of marine species and marine, coastal and estuarine habitats, including some that are threatened.The bay receives regular visits by dolphins, whales, turtles and fairy penguins. Molineaux Point is home to a seal colony and rare Pygmy pipefish.”

Much of Yarra Bay is only a few metres deep, so substantial dredging will be needed to accommodate large vessels, stirring up contaminated sediment from decades of poor waste disposal from surrounding industry.

New breakwaters will inevitably affect tidal flows, risking severe coastal erosion during storms impacting Yarra Bay and neighbouring Frenchmans Bay.

Add to that unknown health consequences from ship exhaust emissions and you have what at best could be described as a toxic situation.