Yamba Marina owner Peter Sutton.
Yamba Marina owner Peter Sutton.

Stuck in the mud

By Toby Walker

Yamba is in danger of being labelled a no-go zone by cashed-up boat owners worried about their vessels running aground in the port's silt-heavy waters.

Last month a 50-foot sailing boat was at the mercy of the tides before it could be released from the muddy trap that stranded it on the northern side of Dart Island. This is exactly the kind of scenario that concerns Yamba Marina owner Peter Sutton.

Mr Sutton believes that unless dredging work begins soon, yacht owners sailing along the Northern New South Wales coast will choose to bypass Yamba and head further north to marinas in Queensland.

"Yamba is not a hard port to get into, but if you've got these parts silting up and sands shifting, it makes the (navigation) chart pretty much useless," he said.

"If your port's got a reputation for having parts that are either silted-up or difficult to access, then the boats will continue to sail past."

Mr Sutton said the 'scuttlebutt' about unreliable port entries travelled quickly on the water and was concerned that Yamba ? and the rest of the Clarence Valley ? was missing out on the tourism dollar that it worked so hard to chase in other sectors.

He conceded more could be done on other fronts to market Yamba's port as a desirable point of entry to the Clarence Valley, but said the dredging issue was crucial.

With new housing expected to grow rapidly in the next few years, Mr Sutton believed the fill-sand could be put to good use by developers.

But it's not only the tourism sector that may suffer.

Earlier this week commercial fishermen had to use the hulls of their boats to clear silt along the shallow channel access to Lake Wooloweyah so they could have their boats on the lake for the first day of the prawn season.

The government department issued with the responsibility of allocating dredging contracts is the Department of Lands.

Yesterday, a Department of Lands spokesperson confirmed local operator Michael Rosser had successfully tendered for a licence to dredge 100,000 cubic metres of sand from the river (including Dart Island) over a two-year period. The spokesperson said Mr Rosser had a contract with developer ParkesMenai Pty Ltd to supply fill for a major project in Yamba and was preparing a fill-site to receive the sand. The spokesperson said Mr Rosser had advised the department that dredging would begin before the end of the year.

Mr Rosser could not be located for comment by The Daily Examiner yesterday.

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