Mary Mortimer in front of the Bank St site proposed by UrbanGrowth for Blackwattle Bay Marina. Photo: Anna Freeland

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BY ANNA FREELAND

Following ongoing pressure from residents, UrbanGrowth NSW Development Corporation have extended the community consultation period for the revised proposal to relocate Blackwattle Bay Marina (BBM) to 5 Bank St, Pyrmont.

A four-month review of the proposal was undertaken after UrbanGrowth received 200 submissions from locals opposing the plan and citing concerns about after-hours noise, commercial waste, inadequate onsite parking and the safety of passive boaters in the bay.

The resulting 400-page document was circulated to residents on 4 December who were given nine business days to return feedback.

UrbanGrowth has now extended the deadline by 15 business days but Pyrmont local Mary Mortimer says the modifications proposed are “nonsense.”
“They’ve made a few concessions about the position of the marina to improve the safety of passive boaters. While it’s better than the initial proposal, there is no way it is safe,” she said.
“The prospects for collision are still huge.”

An active member of the Bays community reference group, Ms Mortimer says the response from UrbanGrowth fails to address the community’s primary concerns.
“The changes they are suggesting are either a nonsense or completely ignore the objections that were raised. They are trying to brush them aside as ‘sub issues’ that aren’t worth worrying about,” she said.

A spokesperson for UrbanGrowth said, “We understand some residents have concerns, however in response to submissions we have proposed tighter controls on BBMs operations including boat movements, noise and rubbish disposal. Shipping containers would not be double stacked, and further screening has been added around the site.”

Other modifications include limiting garbage collection to two days a week and instructing boat operators to leave commercial waste aboard vessels overnight. The intention, according to Ms Mortimer, is to minimise after-hours noise that might cause sleep disturbance but, she says the suggestion is “laughable”.

“We’ve spoken with skippers who’ve said there’s no way any self-respecting boat owner would leave party rubbish on a boat between 4pm and 7am because it attracts vermin and they would have to pay their crew, who finish at 1am, to come back at 7am to remove it. They don’t want to do that because that would make the exercise uneconomic for them,” she said.

Long-time resident Julie Carter is also disappointed with UrbanGrowth’s response and says, “They have totally abrogated their responsibility to the community.”
“What they’ve come back with is supposedly showing how they’ve taken care of our concerns but there’s nothing to say how or who’s going to police it,” she said. “The responsibility will inevitably fall back on residents.”
Ms Carter said her main concern is being kept awake at all hours of the night by boats’ horns.

By law, boats are required to sound their horn while reversing. Of the 22 vessels owned by All Occasions Cruises, the prospective occupants of the site, 18 would be required to reverse into the marina.
Based on estimates detailed in an acoustic analysis for the proposal, horns will sound at 125dB – a noise level equivalent to a “rock band” according to the glossary of terminology – with boats operating 7 days a week, between 7am and 1am.
If the relocation goes ahead, Ms Carter says she is not confident that any of the proposed solutions to concerns raised by the community will be enforced.
“The state of the current operation is terrible so why would it be any different if they move over here,” she said.

The coveted tender for the current BBM site was controversially awarded to All Occasions owner Joe Elias by former NSW Ports and Waterways Minister Joe Tripodi. The award of the tender raised eyebrows when it was revealed that Mr Elias had affiliations with the Obeid family and followed the scrapping of a more rigorous tender process by then CEO of NSW Maritime Steve Dunn.
“The site is disgusting and if it moves to Bank St it will be an absolute eye-sore,” said Ms Carter.

The proposed relocation to Bank St would allow the state government to regain control of the current All Occasions site ahead of construction on the new Sydney Fish Markets.
Local Independent MP Alex Greenwich said, “It’s a sad state of affairs when government plans for prime Sydney Harbour land involve shipping containers, industrial size bins, late night rubbish disposal and a demountable building.”

Mr Greenwich presented a detailed submission in July on behalf of the community calling on the Planning Minister Anthony Roberts to stop the proposal from barrelling ahead and says he will restate his objection to the latest project report.
“The proposal betrays longstanding government promises to transform the site into a public waterfront recreation area with open space and passive boating,” he said.

Ms Mortimer says relocating BBM to Bank St is about expediency and just kicks the can further down the road.
“A recreational space has been promised for a decade. There are families in the area, very close to that site whose kids have nowhere to play or kick a football.”

Development of a community park at the site was first promised in 2004. Based on UrbanGrowth’s proposal, it would be 23 years before construction could commence once they move BBM again.
“By then, several generations of children will have grown up, got married and moved away. They’re saying spaces will be available in ten years that aren’t available now but there’s no evidence of that,” said Ms Mortimer.

“There is an alternative available now, which we’re trying to get them to consider, at the northern bank of Rozelle Bay, west of the Anzac Bridge. It’s much bigger, it’s owned by RMS, and has a lot of parking spaces and empty offices. Most importantly, it’s not in a residential area.”

Ms Carter says if the relocation goes ahead the community will be very upset.
“It’ll be yet another case of the government ignoring the community,” she said. “There’s no consultation anywhere. Their plans are fait-accompli.”

Respondents will have until 8 January 2018 to review and make further submissions to UrbanGrowth on the modified proposal.