ENVIRONMENT: Yarra Bay cruise ship terminal proposal

Botany Bay is a popular and productive fishing spot.

SOMETIMES living in NSW feels like being in the middle of a screwball comedy. The ABC recently reported that the government appears to be pushing ahead with plans to build a cruise ship terminal at Yarra Bay on the northern side of Botany Bay, which seems so crazy as to be almost unbelievable. For non-Sydney folk, the proposed site is bounded by recreation reserves, a Bicentennial park, and is home to the Yarra Bay Sailing Club. The unspoiled beach is used by locals and visitors for exercise, dog walking and fishing. Visiting Yarra Bay, and neighbouring Frenchman’s Bay, Bare Island and the museums and forts on the national park make you feel that you’re out of the “big smoke” and in a true coastal retreat. Sure, there are container terminals to the west, but they’re far enough away as to not intrude on the ambiance too much.

Plonking 40 block of flats-sized cruise ships per year in the middle of all this will sure make a difference to the place and the experience. There are a few unanswered questions as well. How will cashed-up tourists looking forward to sailing through Sydney Heads with the sun rising behind them and the Bridge and the Opera House bracketing their ships’ arrivals react to finding themselves moored next to a container terminal in good old Botany Bay? How will they spend a good part of their day in Sydney? Sitting in a coach or cab or Uber making their way into the City and back through its famously congested streets? That’s about the only way they’ll get into see the sights and spend their foreign currencies. The much-vaunted Sydney Light Rail stops kilometres away at Kingsford…. well, it will stop there when it finally opens sometime in 2020, barring further construction setbacks.

It was good to see the Recreational Fishing Alliance joining the delegation trying to talk some sense into the state government decision makers but it looks this mob will just charge ahead the way it did in demolishing the Sydney Football Stadium, currently an undeveloped vacant lot, in the face of negative cost-benefit analyses and the absence of any real strategy to get more people into the area to attend matches. “Build it and they will come” …yeah, sure, and rich cruising tourists will just love the Botany Bay transit experience….

While on the subject of diminishing both locals’ and tourists’ enjoyment, the new restrictions on access to Sydney’s North Head precinct seem just plain loopy. The road gate leading to the famous lookouts and rock fishing spots has for many years been locked between sunset and sunrise, presumably to protect the resident bandicoot population and reduce the chance of anti-social behaviour after dark. But it’s now locked from 6pm to 6am, restricting angler access in the morning and tourist visitation in the afternoon, particularly during daylight saving. You’d like to think there’s some logic behind this, other than making it cheaper and easier for the regulator, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, or what’s left of it, to lock up and unlock.

Policy developed to make it easy to enforce rules, rather than achieve some legitimate improvement, is always dodgy. Remember when there was an attempt to totally exclude all anglers from known grey nurse shark aggregation sites rather than just ban impactful fishing methods, that is baits bounced on the bottom? We actually won that one. We also got the crazy proposals for the Sydney Marine Park moved to the back burner. So more power to the anti-Yarra Bay cruise terminal coalition. Move the Navy out and park the bloody cruise ships at Garden Island.

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