BY JOSH KINDL
Pyrmont residents have been angered by UrbanGrowth NSW’s proposed plan to relocate the Blackwattle Bay marina closer to the existing population in order to make room for 2,750 new apartments as part of the redevelopment of the existing Sydney Fish Market site.
The proposed plan would see the current marina facilities in Blackwattle Bay relocated to Pyrmont’s Bank Street, a busy residential area, over a proposed foreshore.
Mary Mortimer, Convenor for Save Blackwattle Foreshore, says that the development of a new marina has not been in keeping standard procedure regarding community consultation and has outraged residents.
“If we get to the point where the Department of Planning recommends that the proposal go ahead, all hell will break loose here,” she said.
The proposed development would feature space for 22 large commercial vessels, over 20 shipping containers to be used for storage as well as office and waste management facilities to support businesses operating on the site.
These businesses include All Occasions Cruises, a private harbour cruise company owned by CEO Joe Elias.
The controversial relocation has been made even more so by the involvement of Mr Elias, who is a noted associate of the Obeid family and currently holds both a lease on the marina and a tender to redevelop the Blackwattle Bay site.
The tender was contentiously awarded to Mr Elias in 2009 by then NSW Minister for Ports and Waterways, Joe Tripodi, after the NSW Maritime CEO Steve Dunn dismissed an ongoing tender process in favour of Elias’ bid.
The bid was the highest amongst those competing for the tender, and featured plans to develop a function centre on the site.
In the eight years following his being awarded the tender, Mr Elias has not followed through on any of his proposed development plans.
Later, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) made multiple findings of corruption against both Mr Tripodi and Mr Dunn in regards to their dealings, in matters unrelated to Mr Elias.
A spokesperson from the UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation said the development plan was modified “to enable the continued operation of harbour cruise businesses within Blackwattle Bay into the future, as space for harbour cruise businesses is limited in Sydney Harbour. The change is to allow commercial activity to operate with storage and an office.
“There will be no set down or pick up of passengers from the wharf,” the spokesperson added.
Critics of the new plans are angry that the Government would prioritise continued commercial development over a proposed Bank Street Foreshore, which would have included a water-sports centre and public park.
Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore, agrees with residents that the area would be better used to service the local community.
“We strongly objected to the relocation of the marina to the Bank Street site because it is incompatible with the promised use of the site for public recreation and open space.
“With so many residents living in apartment blocks in our city, it’s more important than ever that we provide beautiful public parks for our residents which can act as their backyards,” she said.
Pyrmont MP, Alex Greenwich, agreed with the Lord Mayor that the area would be better served as a recreational space for the general public.
“What a dire situation we are in when government plans for prime Sydney harbour land involve shipping containers, industrial size rubbish bins and a demountable building,” he said.
Passive boating organisations that operate in the area, such as Dragon Boats NSW, are also likely to be affected by the development, with many concerned that the influx of large ships operating outside business hours will jeopardise the safety of recreational boaters.
Ms Mortimer said that there are real safety concerns associated with UrbanGrowth’s proposal.
“There are a thousand Dragon Boaters a week who use that site… they are all extremely fearful that there will be a fatal accident,” she said.
Pyrmont residents have been vocal in their displeasure with the new proposal, with over 200 submissions prepared by individuals and community organisations already handed in opposing the development plans.
Elizabeth Elenius, convener for Pyrmont Action Group (PAG), says that the state government failed local residents by not paying adequate attention to the wishes of the community.
“The Government is the proponent of the DA, which was prepared in total secrecy from the community.
“So much for UrbanGrowth’s commitment to early and genuine community engagement.”
A spokesperson for Mr Elias declined to comment.