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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Council declares deepwater pier “economically unviable” without producing the report or any substa

An article in other media today advises that Eurobodalla Shire Council has rejected the idea of a deep-water pier, after a feasibility study described it as “economically unviable” with the result apparently disappointing the Bay Business and Tourism Chamber who clearly believe that the pier is critical to secure regular cruise ship visits to the region. That belief of the Chamber is based around plain-as-day observation of the last cruise ship that visited the Bay being the MV Caledonian Sky. As has been tested before, the Clyde foreshore jetties are not suitable for the successful loading and unloading of cruise ship passengers. Simply put the jetties do not respond to the rise and fall of the tide as you might find with a floating platform. This was the very reason why the MV Caledonian Sky passengers were reloaded at the Hanging Rock pontoon during the last visit having disembarked that morning at Murra Mia jetty. Of interest is that in 2015 Eurobodalla Council commissioned the Batemans Bay Regional Waterways Infrastructure Plan. was drafted which stated that it had been “noted by Transport for NSW (2015), harbours along the NSW coast are seen as important layovers for cruising vessels, as well as focal points for tourism and activities including commercial and recreational fishing and charter vessels”. The Batemans Bay community has been long aware of the potentials that exist of marine tourism and the growth of the marine leisure industry A Batemans Bay Deep Water Marina proposal was first adopted by Council in April 2013. In November 2013 a proposal to call for expressions of interest in forming a community committee was adopted In November 2015 the Batemans Bay Regional Waterways Infrastructure Plan also looked closely at the prospect of a deep water marina reporting on how the wharves, boatramps and jetties along the Clyde foreshore might also be improved. On 8 March 2016, Council agreed to progress an economic feasibility study for a Southern NSW Marine Gateway at Batemans Bay and seek Expressions of Interest to conduct that feasibility study.

The 2016 proposal was to explore the development of a Southern NSW Marine Gateway in Batemans Bay including a Deep Water Marina requires collaboration with all levels of government, the community and the private sector with the concept “delivering a new tourism and commercial precinct including hotel, convention, retail and commercial opportunities, a deep water marina, boat storage facilities and other marine servicing infrastructure.”

Council’s 2016 commissioned Southern NSW Marine Gateway in Batemans Bay including a Deep Water Marina is understood to be a high level desk top study written with a view to of providing an executive summary. In order for the deep water pier to be considered “economically unviable” it would however require the input of detailed costings including the cost to dredge, to extend the rock wall and the ongoing costs to maintain the depths required to accommodate larger vessels. Most importantly the report would also need to look at cost benefits, not just at a local level but at a regional level, anticipating visitations from cruise boats, day trips from Batemans Bay inland to the nation’s capital while extending that regional experience up and down the coast to include experience tours and farmgate visits. It is understood that the report that council references saying that the deepwater pier was “economically unviable” did not apply detailed costings nor did it include wider parameters of financial benefit from cruise boats nor did it include the potential to use Batemans Bay as an international stepping off point for visitors to explore the region and Canberra. Once again there is also a concern that the apparent report that Council publicly cites saying the deepwater pier is “economically unviable” has only been seen by a select few so that informed scrutiny of the report, consideration of the consultants original brief and reviewing the numbers that were crunched to conclude it “economically unviable” are not available to ratepayers on Council’s website. While it might be reported that “the Eurobodalla Shire Council has rejected the idea of a deep-water pier, after a feasibility study described it as “economically unviable” it is essential to look at the brief. On March 8th 2016 Council resolved to progress an economic feasibility study for a Southern NSW Marine Gateway at Batemans Bay and to issue an Expression of Interest to conduct an economic feasibility study for the development of a Southern NSW Marine Gateway at Batemans Bay allocating a budget of up to $50,000 to undertake the economic feasibility study. Undertake the economic feasibility study of what precisely? To further explore the possibility of the marine gateway coming to fruition to inform government and/or developers of whether extensive environmental studies should be undertaken offering that the economic feasibility may include: · A multi-storey 4 to 5 star resort style complex including multiple tourism development opportunities · Restaurants, bars and specialty shops. · A Boating Club (recreational, sailing and game-fishing) · An extension of the Clyde River training wall · The construction of a 100 berth marina able to dispense diesoline and petrol · A slipway and hardstand for the maintenance of vessels · A ships’ chandlery and retail boating outlet · Dry boat storage for up to 100 boats · Charter and excursion boat facilities and wait for it…… · A pontoon wharf to cater for cruise ship tenders. All of the above combined might well prove to be “economically unviable” however we have no idea of the viability of the singular item “A pontoon wharf to cater for cruise ship tenders” And unless Council is open about the details and breakdown they might well hope that a throwaway line such as “economically unviable” might be accepted without question. Many are now asking where is the evidence and the detail. It has been stated elsewhere that the council undertook the study at the prompting of the president of the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, Mr David Maclachlan. The original study was actually prompted by a resolution brought to Council by then Councillor Peter Schwarz saying the proposed project was led by a community committee made up of a broad base of local business people in partnership with Council. It was Councillor Schwarz who also recognised that a pontoon wharf “would make cruise ship visits more profitable.”

More recently however Mr Maclachlan has reiterated “If we had a pier, the crew would also come to shore, they get food, buy personal items. That’s a really significant factor for any cruise ship,” adding that “Small ships mean small tenders (ship-to-shore transport) and small tenders mean they’re highly subject to weather ... you’re going to have more frequent cancellations.” During the last cruise ship visit a representative of the Ports Authority of NSW was on hand to observe and took away with them insights from both the local business chamber, tourism operators, Clyde River users and Council. It is now hoped that they will make an independent assessment around the economic viability of a deepwater pier.

Above: A powerful piece of sculpture and quite relevant to the continued headbanging we hear of between often disassociated Eurobodalla Council who carry little in the way of financial consequence of their decisions and the passionate Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce who represent the critical financial interests and viability of their members as they challenge Council on matters of policy, vision and bureaucracy.... as expected by their strong and proactive membership. Here we have a sculpture of two adults after a disagreement, sitting with their backs to each other. Yet, the inner child in both simply want to connect. "Age has many beautiful gifts but one we could live without is the pride and resentment we hold onto when we have conflicts with others. The forgiving free spirit of children is our true nature. A good thing to remember when you feel stubborn. ✨"

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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