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On Monday May 14, Wally Gates presented his plan, to save Ferry Park’s heritage-listed cane punt and ferry, to Peter Birch, Clarence Valley Council’s manager of open spaces and facilities. Mr Birch (left) said Mr Gates’ ‘Plan B2’ would be put to councillors in July, along with any other proposals that are lodged in the interim period, from the likes of the Lawrence Historical Society or the Harwood mill. Image: Geoff Helisma

‘Plan B2’ to save maritime relics

Geoff Helisma |

Maclean resident Wally Gates has submitted his ‘Plan B2’ to Clarence Valley Council (CVC), to save Ferry Park’s heritage-listed old Ashby ferry and Cane Punt No. 6 from being sent to landfill.

At the March CVC meeting, after considering Mr Gate’s ‘Plan B’ deputation to the previous week’s Environment, Planning and Community Committee meeting, councillors resolved to “undertake formal negotiations with interested parties to find suitable locations for the relocation of the vessels and that the negotiations include consideration of the proposal put forward by Mr Wally Gates [and] the Greater Maclean Community Action Group”.

However, after the meeting, Mr Gates was concerned that the cost of his plan would be too expensive.

In the past, CVC has chosen not to preserve the vessels and approved their demolition in 2013, due to the lack of “any suitable grants” and a reluctance to spend money on them.

Mr Gates came up with his new plan following a dream that awoke him at 3am.

He said he experienced a “Eureka I have found it” moment.

“I got out of bed, gathered up a pile of paper and wrote,” he said.

Reusing materials from the ferry is at the heart of Mr Gates’ plan.

Instead of restoring the cane punt and the Ashby ferry to their former selves. Mr Gates’ vision is “the erection of a permanent display that illustrates aspects of the ferry and cane punt, which have an important and historical significance to the area”.

Mr Gates advocates the creation of an information booth, which would include “historical pictures and information” and a separate display that features “approximately 1.5metres” of the cane punt’s bow on one side and two of the ferry’s directional pullies on the other.

The displays would be mounted on each side of a “wooden wall” made from timber salvaged from the ferry’s on/off ramps.

“It should be noted that there will be no weight exerted on the wall, as both the bow and power wheel are ‘resting’ on the concrete base,” he writes in his plan.

Mr Gates has suggested that the information booth (2.5metres by 3metres) and the display should be retained at the Ferry Park site and recommended “recognition of the original [Aboriginal] site owners”.

The Maclean District Historical Society has written to Mr Gates, stating that it “would be prepared to make available whatever relevant information we have for display in the proposed rotunda at Ferry Park”.

Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan has written to Mr Gates pointing out that “it would be open for [Clarence Valley] Council to apply for funding through the Building Better Regions Fund; this would be a 50/50 split funding”.

New South Wales Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis has also written to Mr Gates, saying that once it was determined who would apply for any relevant state funding – CVC or a community organisation – and “an estimated cost and the benefits to the local community” was ascertained, that he “would be more than happy to direct you and/or Council to funding sources that might b e suitable under the NSW Government programs”.

Cane Punt No. 6, which is believed to be the last surviving example of the barges used to transport sugarcane on the Clarence River, was one of six ‘Special Projects’ identified in CVC’s 2006 Maclean Community Based Heritage Study. The old Ashby ferry was in service until 1981 (only as a relief ferry after 1976), before the bridges from Ashby to Warregah Island and Warregah to Chatsworth Island were built.

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