Garden Island could be opened up as parkland, form part of a continuous Harbour walk and provide essential new commercial docking for large cruise ships.
I welcome the Federal Government's independent review into opening Garden Island's docks for visiting cruise ships.
On Monday night, the Council unanimously endorsed my recommendation to expand the review to consider public access to the northern part of the Garden Island foreshore. While the review focuses on the need to accommodate larger cruise ships, it is also a chance to consider future uses of the whole naval compound. It should also look at potential passenger access including ferry connections to Circular Quay, which would reduce traffic congestion and provide a direct and more scenic entry to the City.
Garden Island has very limited public access. For many years, I have argued for public access to the northern tip of Garden Island as it would benefit the adjacent densely populated areas and provide another critical link in the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Walkway.
The residential precincts of Potts Point, Elizabeth Bay and Kings Cross are the most densely populated, and together with Woolloomooloo, demographically diverse areas in Australia. But access to public open space is very limited.
Council also asked the Federal Government to support important sea-based tourism in our City and State, particularly as the cruise passenger industry contributes an estimated $3 billion to the Australian economy, with most activity and benefit in Sydney. A report to the NSW Government in January 2011 found that Sydney Harbour will not be able to accommodate the number of cruise ships requiring berths by 2015.
Garden Island is one of the last remaining accessible dock facilities near Sydney, and a serious opportunity for expanding deepwater berths for cruise ships east of the Bridge. Continued naval presence at Garden Island could be balanced with commercial shipping, when appropriate, and if the impacts on the densely populated surrounding area can be managed to protect residential amenity.
Sydney Harbour belongs to the people of Sydney and beyond - it is an unrivalled attraction for tourists and provides considerable environmental, recreational and economic amenity for the people of greater Sydney.