The NSW Greens are concerned about the $600m in marina developments in the pipeline all over Sydney, fearing the waterways will become 'parking lots' for large cruisers, but experts believe that is far from the current case nor plans for the future.
According to industry proponents, NSW Maritime changes undertaken last year by the Ports Minister, Joe Tripodi, have smoothed the way for more and bigger marinas.
The Greens are so concerned about the plethora of developments - including proposals at Rose Bay, Cronulla, Breakfast Point and Rozelle - they put have a motion before Parliament to reinstate a moratorium on new marinas. The moratorium was first imposed by the former premier Bob Carr in 2001 and then lifted in 2005.
Not only are waterfront residents worried about losing their views and water access, there are concerns that larger boats pose a danger to smaller sailing vessels and rowers.
Joe Tripodi has strongly backed marina developments since his appointment to the portfolio, 'showing no regard for local communities and the environment', said the NSW Greens MP Lee Rhiannon. 'Our precious harbours, foreshores and estuaries are becoming parking lots for super-yachts as the Government effectively privatises public lands and waterways,' she said.
For its part, the boating industry dismisses assertions that the harbour is filling up with boats. Marina developments reflect a backlog in repairs and renovations because of the moratorium and a change in the boating market, said the president of the Boat Owners' Association, Michael Chapman.
'When you examine the facts, they are spurious claims,' he said. 'We are seeing a move to larger boats and away from smaller boats and a compacting of the boats in berths and clearing a space in the navigation channels.'
NSW vessel registration data between 2003 and 2007 shows a 63 per cent rise in boats longer than 15 metres.
International marina consultant, Joe Goddard, says he is a supporter of environmental parameters but believes the Greens show a lack of insight into boating and marina requirements.
'I thought this comment by the Greens was both ill-infomed and spiteful,' he says.
'I am not surprised by the Greens reaction, that is really their mantra, but their comment about 'parking lots for superyachts' is far from the mark. A superyacht is a vessel over 25m in length. The average sized boat in Australia is about 10m long and the average marina berth size throughout marinas in NSW and Queensland is11 or 12m. Boats of 10 to 12m in length are not considered ‘superyachts’.
'I would agree there may be safety problems if all new boat owners were cruising the harbour with massive superyachts, but alas, this is not the case. In fact I would say that Australians have a very low ownership of superyachts compared to overseas countries.'
Goddard, who has project-managed marinas in the Middle East, Australia and Asia, believes 'bureaucracy and over government of the Australian waterways leads to many boat owners missing out on their favourite past time'.
'Australia is regarded the world over as a leader in the marine industry, which is why Australians are chosen all over the world to design and manage new marine facilities. If anything the authorities should be nourishing and supporting the industry.'
He says that while 'green' concerns are certainly relevant, they should not stifle development completely. 'In Dubai I lobbied for the use of environmental consultants. I did this so that my projects did not destroy marine habitats, stagnate the water or pollute the sea. There always needs to be some measures in place to avoid future problems but not necessarily reject the project entirely.'