White Bay Cruise Ship Terminal

(10:22am 26 August 2011, Parliament House, Sydney)

I make a contribution to the motion regarding the White Bay cruise ship terminal proposal. The cruise passenger industry is vital to Sydney's and Australia's economy. It is estimated to contribute $3 billion to the country's economy, with most activity in and benefit to Australia's global city, Sydney. The Cruise Passenger Terminal Steering Committee report to the New South Wales Government in January highlighted that Sydney Harbour will not be able to accommodate the number of cruise ships requiring berths by 2015. Over the past decade this industry grew by an estimated 18 per cent each year and it is expected to grow by a further 17 per cent every year for the next decade. We must expand our cruise ship terminal capacity or miss out on this economic potential. Clearly, the outstanding attribute and attraction of Sydney is that it has the most extraordinary and beautiful harbour in the world. The Council of the City of Sydney prefers a cruise ship passenger terminal close to the city as it would prevent traffic and transport impacts and add to the city's economy and visitor experience.

The Government's review of the planning process for Barangaroo concluded that a cruise ship terminal was not compatible with the functions of Barangaroo, but recommended retaining deep water berthings for future alternative use to enable tall ships and other vessels to berth at Barangaroo. The review examined how far the work for the terminal at Barangaroo had progressed and determined that the site simply could not accommodate it. The Government review confirmed that the planning process to move the terminal to White Bay was not adequate. The decision was an indictment of the process by the former Government. The report refers to a rapid process that moved quickly from a government announcement, to declaration of the project under part 3A, to completion of the business case and approval of the proposal.

Not surprisingly, the community felt railroaded by another example of a poor process under part 3A. The community believed it had little opportunity for input and local residents remain concerned that traffic, transport, noise impacts, loss of visual amenity and public access had not been addressed properly. A new car park accommodating up to 180 cars and coaches, and a new access road around the harbour to the site in an already congested area is concerning. If White Bay becomes a cruise terminal it is essential that ferry links are provided to Circular Quay and Barangaroo so that international visitors can enjoy the harbour and not be part of increasing our already congested city traffic. The wider community is not confident that the necessary background work has been done to ensure that White Bay is an appropriate site for a cruise ship passenger terminal or that this location will provide the best outcome for Sydney.

Cruise ships are becoming larger and, increasingly, many are unable to pass under the Harbour Bridge to dock at a terminal. Sydney needs a secure berthing capacity east of the bridge, otherwise our city and State could lose this important sea-based tourism. Currently Dr Allan Hawke, AC, is undertaking for the Federal Government an independent review of the future use of the naval docks at Garden Island by visiting cruise ships that cannot fit under the Harbour Bridge. Garden Island is an option for expanding deepwater berths for cruise ships east of the bridge as it is one of the last remaining accessible dock facilities near Sydney. I support a continuing naval presence at Garden Island, recognising its contribution to city diversity, history and heritage, local employment, tourism, the maritime industry, and national safety and security. I also support sharing deepwater berths between naval and commercial shipping, where appropriate, and managing the impact on the densely populated surrounding area to protect residential amenity.

Any decision on the future use of Garden Island must consider potential passenger access and circulation. If cruise ship berthing at Garden Island proceeds a ferry terminal with connections to Circular Quay should provide passenger access to the city. This would reduce traffic congestion and provide a direct and more scenic entry to the city. Currently the Garden Island ferry services provide access only to the Australian Navy Heritage Centre. The adjacent residential community also could benefit from access to improved public transport that is provided for cruise ship passengers. Garden Island has 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 from the Botanical Gardens via Woolloomooloo Bay through to Elizabeth Bay.

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. I strongly support a policy encouraging public foreshore walkways. I share the view of the Bays Precinct Community Reference Group that development proposals should not even be considered let alone approved for White Bay until a long-term strategic planning framework or master plan for the whole Bays Precinct area has been finalised. The Bays Precinct covers 80 hectares from the Fish Markets and Blackwattle Bay to Rozelle and White Bay in the inner harbour. While there have been various plans for specific sites, I welcome the Government's commitment to an agreed overall plan. Recently the Government invited the City of Sydney and Leichhardt councils to be part of that planning process. I support a working harbour for Sydney, but Sydney Harbour belongs to everyone and its future should be subject to a long-term master plan developed through an open and democratic process.