At the hearing of the Standing Committee on State Development, held at Tweed Heads on Monday August 28, Clarence Valley Council’s (CVC) environment, planning & community director, Des Schroder, raised a question about the government’s lack of focus when it comes to dredging sections of the Clarence River in support of Yamba’s status as an international port – particularly where the river bends at Goodwood Island.
“Who actually does it?” he said.
Mr Schroder mentioned that the “Port Authority for Newcastle has lots of money, they are a corporation”.
“I think it has been leased out,” he said.
In early 2014, Hastings Funds Management and a Chinese corporation, China Merchants, reportedly secured a 98-year lease with their $1.75 billion bid.
“As part of that, they do the dredging,” Mr Schroder said.
“When it comes to Yamba, the issue is who is going to do the dredging? It is not really [the] Lands [department].”
Mr Schroder explained that an enquiry to see if work could be completed using ‘Better Boating’ funding proved fruitless.
“The reality is that it is the port authorities, and the Port Authority does not have the money to do that dredging,” he said.
“We talked to the Better Boating guys who are talking to the Minister about finding a grant that actually fits that dredging. It is complex because Lands do some of it, and the port authorities are responsible for the rest.”
Committee member Mick Veitch asked: “Ballpark figure, how much money are you looking at?”
Mr Schroder: “We are talking about $500,000 in dredging, and we probably need a couple hundred thousand in approvals.
“Then we probably have to negotiate with the Aboriginal community, too.”
Harwood Marine’s Ross Roberts answered Mr Veitch’s next question: “How often does it need to be dredged?”
Mr Roberts said “just one small piece,” needed dredging, “which is only about 800 metres long; and it can be as wide as legally allowed”.
Mr Roberts explained how the tugboats associated with the construction of the new Harwood bridge are affected: “The tugs that are coming to our place now have to come in on the big tides and are bringing stuff for the bridge, for the highway construction.
“They are bringing the big barges up. They come to our place first, they get modifications done, they get safety railings, walkways and everything put on, and then they go up to the bridge.”
Subsequently, Mr Roberts told the Independent: “The area of concern is a small area of sand called the ‘Transition’ that has built up over time, probably due to the dry weather and low river flows.
“The port’s limits are up to the Harwood Bridge, and this navigation hazard hinders the large tugs that need to transit this area to bring large barges for bridge works and repairs at Harwood slipway.
“Large recreational yachts and pleasure boats, as well as long-liners from the fishing industry, are also restricted by this.
“This area is some nine kilometres from the river entrance, just past the river-bend east of Goodwood Island wharf.”