The Guardian 14 February, 2007

Greed threatens
Sydney’s wonderful Harbour


Owners of property with frontages to Sydney Harbour are overjoyed at the NSW Government’s draft new Waterfront Landowners Consent policy, which will allow them to develop vast new marinas and mooring facilities in Sydney’s picturesque bays.

The new arrangements would effectively block the free passage of small craft, would facilitate construction of grossly-packed marinas, and would block public access to many harbour frontages. The historic program of providing greater public access to the waterfront, so that it would eventually be possible to walk right around the harbour, is now threatened with collapse.

Ivan Patrick, the recently-retired manager of the Sydney Maritime Authority, has stated that under the new policy "the Harbour will become a car park for boats". The new policy will dump planning provisions, enforced up until now by the NSW Maritime Authority, intended to prevent overdevelopment of berthing areas and to remove unsightly or redundant waterfront structures.

There will no longer be a requirement for development to provide enhanced public access. Indeed, it will no longer be necessary for new private waterfront structures to allow public access at all, or to provide information about marina waste plans, to minimise the extent of structures sitting on the seabed, or to limit jetties and pontoons to sixteen metres in length. There will be no provision against development involving rock excavation or beach erosion, and the impact of development on contaminated land will no longer be a consideration for development approval.

The Maritime Authority’s new development consent processes are said to "simplify landowners’ consent processes", Harbour front landowners who construct unauthorised building work will be able to have the work approved retrospectively. The Authority’s role will be limited to harbour safety, rather than to the custodianship of land and water.

Maritime Authority staff complained to the Independent Com­mission Against Corruption late last year about a campaign of intimidation by private interests who wanted to have the former legislation overturned. Radio "shock-jock" broadcaster Alan Jones conducted a campaign against the old waterfront legislation last year. He demanded to know when a new maritime commercial lease policy would be implemented, and quoted his listeners as saying that the Authority was "harassing its tenants more than ever and bullying private jetty owners all over the harbour".

The new arrangements will cause values of privately-owned waterfront land to skyrocket.

The arrangements will be particularly good news for the would-be developer of a proposed new 174-berth marina, for huge boats, at Sydney’s very beautiful Rose Bay. An unnamed Maritime Authority source is said to have remarked that if the proposal is approved, the owner of the marina site will "monopolise the big boat market in Sydney for the next 30 years".

The new policy was announced by Joe Tripodi, the NSW Minister for Ports and Waterways. Mr Tripodi is said to have made representations on behalf of Adrian Mastronardo, director of a construction company which donated $13,220 to Mr Tripodi’s 2003 election fund, after Mr Mastronardo parked his boat illegally on a neighbour’s slipway. Mr Tripodi has denied he has any conflict of interest in this or any other matter affected by the new policy.

NSW voters will have a chance to express their approval or otherwise for these new arrangements, and for other policy innovations from the NSW ALP government, at the forthcoming state election on March 24.

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