Balmain resident Gill Hazel is packed and ready to leave over noise and pollution. Photo: Chris Peken

Posted by & filed under Inner West Independent.

A handful of Balmain residents intend to vacate their properties for up to six weeks to avoid the peak season at the White Bay cruise ship terminal.

Since the facility’s inception in April last year, a small group of residents have lodged recurrent complaints with Sydney Ports about air and noise pollution at the site.

Ships are scheduled to dock at White Bay on 52 of the 90 days in January, February and March.

Gill Hazel, who lives very close to the precipice overlooking the terminal, is considering vacating her premises for a period in February. She said the noise includes not just the ships’ engines but announcements from the PA system.

“It’s pretty bad when you get to know who the captains are,” she laughed.

But it would appear to contravene requirements of ships calling at White Bay, according to a letter from Sydney Ports CEO Grant Gilfillan. The letter to residents declares that vessels must “silence all external announcements/loud music while at berth (excluding mandatory emergency lifeboat drill 60 minutes before departure)”.

Ms Hazel works from home and keeps doors and windows open during hot summer months. She says the air and noise pollution varies depending on the direction and intensity of the breeze.
“If the winds are the way they are, then you’ve got the terrible stench, and that is so debilitating.”

Ms Hazel works in the travel industry and understands the cruising boom is placing extra pressure on cruise liners. But she wants to see greater investment in clean fuels that minimise pollution, and for on-shore power to be used like in other world ports.

“Just make it a clean product,” she said.

One resident, who did not want to be named, said she will leave her home for the whole of February and early March.

“February is just a disaster from my perspective,” she said of the month when ships will dock for 23 of 28 days.

Several residents left during a particularly busy period in December, and the resident said she would consider moving permanently if there is no respite.

“You feel under siege. It’s relentless,” she said. “The last couple of days we haven’t had a ship in and it’s been heaven. We go from heaven to hell.”

Former Leichhardt councillor John Stamolis outlined the residents’ agenda, the main element of which is to require ships to use on-shore power while docked instead of their engines.

They also want White Bay to be made a quiet port, greater regulation of fuel and pollution, and the publication of air quality and noise test results.

“Sydney Ports are doing nothing about the impacts but tell anyone who will listen that they have a ‘good neighbour policy’,” Mr Stamolis said.

“This policy is meaningless as they continue to demonstrate irresponsible behaviour.”

Sydney Ports told residents it has discussed the best way to test emissions with the Environment Protection Authority and Roads & Maritime Services, and will do so during the peak month of February.

A spokesperson for Sydney Ports said the organisation has met with residents on several occasions in recent weeks and had a long record of responding seriously to community concerns.

“Sydney Ports is indeed taking action and it is action the residents have accepted as a step in the right direction,” the spokesperson said.

“It is critical to determine as accurately as possible the levels of any negative impact on air quality caused by cruise ships before any decisions can be made on further actions.”