\ Navy pays little rent for berths on Garden Island as cruise ships worth billions in tourism dollars turned away – Committee For Sydney

News

Navy pays little rent for berths on Garden Island as cruise ships worth billions in tourism dollars turned away

November 12, 2019

Source: The Daily Telegraph
Author: Matthew Benns
Date: 8 November 2019

Taxpayers in NSW will be paying an estimated $500 million to build a cruise ship terminal nobody wants in Botany Bay despite owning prime berths at Garden Island.

The Daily Telegraph can reveal the state government leases the four giant multi-million dollar berths in Woolloomooloo Bay to the navy for a peppercorn rent of just $446,196 a year.

The cruise industry is worth $5.2 billion a year but cruise liners are being turned away because the big ships cannot get under the bridge to dock at White Bay and there is not enough space for them all at the Overseas Passenger Terminal in Circular Quay.

Former Liberal leader and Navy Reserve Captain Peter Collins headed an inquiry two years ago that recommended Navy and cruise ships share Garden Island. But the full detail of the report has never been released.

“The whole report has never been made public,” Mr Collins said. “My report went to the NSW Cabinet and they released a distilled version after they received a negative response from the Federal Government.”

Then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a captain’s pick in 2017 and ruled out a cruise terminal saying: “Garden Island is a naval base and has been for about 150 years and will remain so.”

“The Federal Government did not officially have a copy of my report,” Mr Collins said. “Without reading my report he dismissed it out of hand.” Mr Turnbull was overseas and unavailable for comment yesterday.

Mr Collins said his report recommended the Navy and Cruise ships both use Garden Island. “I love the Navy and we don’t want to lose them,” he said.

But there is room for both. The NSW Government owns 43,000 square metres of prime harbour front from Harry’s Café de Wheels to Wylde Street leading up to HMAS Kuttabul on Garden Island that would be perfect for berthing cruise liners.

“The Navy chooses to berth on the eastern side of Garden Island but there is no reason why they could not berth all of their fleet on the western side as they did until the 1980s,” he said.

Business and tourism leaders are fuming at the “lost opportunity” of bringing tourists into Sydney Harbour and instead spending money on a new terminal to land them in Botany Bay.

Committee for Sydney Advocacy Director James Hulme said: “Garden Island has the potential to be the jewel in the crown of the Harbour and now is the time to think about how we best use its space and location.”

Katherine O’Regan, Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, said: “Sydney Harbour is the gateway for our city and Garden Island is ideal as a cruise terminal from a tourism and economy point of view.”

The NSW Government has commissioned a soon-to-be delivered detailed business case to look at building a cruise terminal in Port Botany at Yarra Bay.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance said: “There’s been a debate about Garden Island for years and we’ve gotten nowhere. Sydney Harbour is full and we need a solution for the big ships.

“Ultimately, we can keep debating Garden Island until the cows come home but we need to look at alternatives and that’s what we are doing with now with industry,” he said.

“There are locations like Botany Bay, where you are able to have people get off and then spend a couple of days in the city either side of their cruise,” he said.

But Barry Wallace, president of Yarra Bay 16ft Skiff Sailing Club which would be obliterated by the terminal, said: “It would be a disaster, not just for the club but the whole community.

“There is not a lot of transport and during peak hour it is bumper to bumper. These cruise ship passengers are not going to stay here and spend in the local economy, they want to go to see the harbour. They will waste half their stay sitting on a bus,” he said.

However the Navy is not budging. Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said: “The Federal Government’s position has not changed.

“HMAS Kuttabul is a key supporting base to Navy’s maritime capability and operations.”

A spokeswoman for Defence said: “The Garden Island Defence Precinct (GIDP) which includes HMAS Kuttabul, is a key operational and support base for the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) directly supporting maritime capability and Defence operations. The GIDP is land owned by the Commonwealth.”

She said the “wharves, engineering services and buildings provide the critical facilities and infrastructure required to safely, securely and efficiently berth, replenish, maintain and repair RAN ships. GIDP is Commonwealth property.”

It also houses naval barrack style accommodation with million dollar views of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House that visiting tourists would love to see.

“Why wouldn’t you want to sail in or out of Sydney Harbour?” said Margy Osmond, chief executive of the Tourism Transport Forum.

“But we need to have a solution. Is it going to Garden Island, which would be our first choice, or is it going to Botany Bay?”

Every moment wasted meant cruise ship companies were planning to go elsewhere which resulted in other ports up and down the coast of NSW losing out on crucial revenue.

Cruise Lines International Association managing director Joel Katz said: “Without urgent attention, Sydney’s lack of berthing options will continue to hamper growth in Australia’s $5.2 billion-a-year cruise sector, which supports more than 18,000 jobs around the country.”

Mr Collins agreed and said the answer was simple. “Arthur Phillip got it right in 1788 and sailed round to have the Sydney Harbour experience and it has been the same for everyone ever since.”

Subscribe for the latest news