CARPARKS by the sea
For the past two years, a David and Goliath battle has been waged on the picturesque shores of Middle Harbour. For the sailing community, Marine Rescue and residents, it was always about access to an area where sport interacted with leisure activities, food, entertainment and a "public space".
Passions were inflamed when a developer, Catalina Anchorage Marina, submitted a proposal for an extension of a three to 17-berth marina in front of the popular Skiff Club -which would encroach on water access vital to the operation of the Skiff Club and limit availability to the wider community.
"The best thing about the Skiff Club is our amazing members and this development proposal - which eventually ended up in the NSW Land and Environment Court - really brought us together as a club and as a community to reject this encroachment on our water access, safety and sailing operations," Middle Harbour Skiff president Peter Tinworth confirms.
North Shore Living caught up with Mr Tinworth and Mosman deputy mayor Roy Bendall on the balcony of the club at The Spit, where spectacular views of the harbour will thankfully be protected and where members can now be confident that the court ruling has upheld the club's access rights against the development."The original proposal was endorsed by the council staff, so we really felt we were not only fighting Catalina but also the Mosman administration. Luckily local councillors voted against a staff recommendation and the matter eventually ended up in the NSW Land and Environment Court," Mr Tinworth says.
The Middle Harbour Skiff Club's submission raised a number of issues, which included:
• Sailing safety and the impact on sailing operations. The Skiff club maintained that a new marina extension would make launching skiffs and returning skiffs back to the shore "extremely dangerous". "Sailing is a sport that is quite safe when performed in appropriate areas and conditions. When coupled with an inappropriate area, the activity can be quite dangerous for participants and others that may be caught up in an incident," the report noted.
"The proposed marina extension would have left senior sailors exposed to performing difficult manoeuvres in a space that would not be safe and junior sailors would have been forced to enter a busy traffic channel to get to their sailing area," Skiff Club commodore Daniel Watterson wrote in his submission.
• Erosion of the foreshore in the area around the club and near the Marine Rescue base has been an ongoing issue for a number of years and Commodore Watterson says the impact of this under the clubhouse had deteriorated in the past 18 months, with the building's foundations starting to be visible. He says this would have been exacerbated by the development.
In the past few years, there has been a surge in harbour marina development applications, with many other councils fighting plans including North Sydney against the Berry's Bay proposal. Local Waverton residents want the area to remain a heritage maritime precinct, and not a massive overdevelopment. Clontarf is also the site of a new marina development, which will increase moorings from the current 21 berths to 64.
Mosman Council deputy mayor Roy Bendall says the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS), which owns the land to the high water mark (council owns the beach) wants to create "carparks by the sea" along the Sydney Harbour Foreshore.
"After this battle, it is safe to say that sanity has prevailed," he tells North Shore Living.
"The Middle Harbour Skiff Club, residents, sailors and Marine Rescue have won against the odds and now they will be able to continue their activities in safety in the water and along this area of beachfront."
But Cr Bendall says in the future - if council amalgamations go ahead on the North Shore - these sorts of resident battles could likely be lost.
"Large amalgamated councils are not necessarily going to listen to the concerns of local residents," he says
"We will see more of these overdevelopments and organisations like the Skiff Club will lose out."
He says there was "no way" that Mosman Council was going to abandon this fight to protect a club with a proud 150 year-old history for the benefit of a developer.