Visionary Eden gathers to celebrate cruise milestone – new wharf open

by IAN CAMPBELL of About Regional

Natalie Godward (Centre) Cruise Development Manager Port Authority of NSW, cuts the cake with Jenny Robb – Eden Chamber, Andrew Dooley – Project Manager, Deb Meers – Cruise Eden, Gail Ward – Cruise Eden, Steve Heffernan – Svitzer/Eden Chamber, Marge Snijder – Cruise Eden. Photo: Ian Campbell.

It feels odd to think and now say that concrete and steel can have warmth and heart – but the Eden community proved it so today at the opening of the port’s $44 million cruise ship wharf.

“From a youthful perspective, I believe this remarkable landmark in our town will make an innumerable number of strides towards boosting the economy, creating job opportunities and allowing Eden to assert itself [as a] desirable tourist destination,” Eden Marine High School Captain, Connor Kellalea told the hundreds of people who gathered – some say 1,000 people!

“The town of Eden has shown me an enduring capacity to exbibit a coordinated understanding that can give rise to such a wonderous and innovative perspective.”

Eden Marine High School Captain, Connor Kellalea. Photo: Ian Campbell.

The effort and coordination that Connor speaks of was central to this morning’s celebration which took place in the face of a stiff, cold wind on the southern side of Snug Cove.

Those wearing the bright red of the volunteer Cruise Eden army were the guests of honour in many respects. Each speaker touched on the impact the warm greeting these Bega Valley locals offer holidaymakers as being key to the town’s cruise appeal over the last 14 years.

The cake! By Eden’s Sandy Huff, Photo: Ian Campbell.

“With projects like this everybody comes together and makes an incredible contribution along the way,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said.

“But I will never ever forget the contribution that Gail Ward made, Marge Snijder, Peter Barber, and Steve Heffernan as the four people that really did instigate this.

“This has been going on since about 2005, and we are now at this incredible point, this is about new opportunities – for everybody.

“It’s incredible to think that people from all over the world are going to be able to dock here.”

Member for Bega, Andrew Constance. Photo: Ian Campbell.

In terms of dollars and cents, the extension of the existing wharf is a partnership involving the NSW Government with a $32 million contribution, $10 million from the Australian Government and $2 million from Bega Valley Shire Council.

The first cruise ship to use the wharf will be the Pacific Explorer which is scheduled to arrive with more than 2,000 passengers on September 15, ending the need for passengers to be tendered ashore in small boats and reducing the likelihood of cruise ships canceling a stopover because of rough sea conditions.

“It will be followed by another 21 cruise ships during the cruise season with visits increasing in the coming years providing a big boost for our regional economy,” Mr Constance says.

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bega Valley Mayor, Kristy McBain said “This is wonderful, miracles happen!”

“There has been a lot of detractors and over time we have managed to put all of them back in their box and say – no we can do this.

“We want to see change in our community and we want to build on the legacy of our volunteers and visionaries in Eden and we are going to making this happen.”

Conner Kellalea and Zachary Considine – Captains of Eden Marine High School, cut the ribbon with Andrew Constance. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Cr McBain went on to acknowledge the efforts of Jenny Robb (Eden Chamber) and Natalie Godward (Cruise Eden and Port Authority of NSW), as well as Shire General Manager, Mayors, and Councilors, and Federal Members over the last decade.

“This is the vision of a community who wants to do something spectacular and different. Its the vision of a community who knows it has to change to remain viable, to keep reinventing itself, and take advantage of the natural opportunities that we have around us,” she said.

Eden’s tug boats the Cooma and the Wistari put on a show. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Grant Gilfillian, CEO Port Authority of NSW said Eden is leading the way.

“This is not just about business it’s about community, that has brought together a very strong bond and a series of relationships,” he said.

“The future for [the cruise idustry] in this area is going to be a model for the rest of Australia.”

The first cruise ship is due to pull up alongside on September 15. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Aside from maintaining cruise ship interest in visiting the port and developing local tourism products, work into the future includes a new passenger welcome centre, marina berths, and an overall port redevelopment, all of which Andrew Constance today said the NSW Government remained committed too.

A large scale residential and retail development is also flagged for vacant land next to Snug Cove, a site that was once home to industrial size petrol tanks. The plans include ten townhouses, and five penthouse suites, with restaurant, cafe, and shopping opportunities below. **** This article was first published in About Regional

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