The new head of Port Authority of NSW has moved to try and win over the people of Yarra Bay, outlining the benefits and attempting to ease their concerns about a new cruise terminal at Port Botany.

Philip Holliday this week assumed the role of CEO and director of the Port Authority of NSW.

New South Wales received $3.3 billion from 358 cruise ship visits last year, and is Australia’s number one destination for ships. But the income is slowing as capacity constraints mean larger cruise ships area forced to go elsewhere.

The State has identified Yarra Bay and nearby Molineux Point as sites for a new cruise terminal. Mr Holliday is preparing a business case to be presented to the state government in March.

In an exclusive interview with Cruise Passenger, he said: “What we are clear on is the benefits to the state and to Sydney. I’m very keen to promote that.

“The reality of our current situation is that demand far exceeds availability. People know the inn is full. Whether they want to bring one ship once or one ship 50 times, it is difficult.”

CEO of NSW Ports Philip Holliday
Philip Holliday, new CEO of the Port Authority of NSW, on board CMV’s Vasco Da Gama

And, despite the number of times residents ask for it to be reconsidered, Mr Holiday said firmly: “Garden Island is not on the table. The Commonwealth and the Navy have made that absolutely clear and we are not looking at Garden Island at all.”

Mr Holliday, who has already addressed protest meetings at Yarra Bay, maintained there were many benefits for the local community.

“I think a cruise facility brings benefits including opportunities for provisioning and other local opportunities. They are not something the port author is going to deliver, but the port will facilitate local entrepreneurs to help them take advantage of.”

Asked if there would be financial help for local and Indigenous businesses like tour group operators, Mr Holliday did not rule it out.

“We haven’t gone into that level of detail at this moment. But we’re very keen to make sure that whatever opportunities are possible, we’re able to help exploit them. We’ll look at everything on its individual merits.”

He added: “At this stage, consultation has started with the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council. If the project were to proceed to planning approval, local economic opportunities would be investigated including integration with indigenous businesses and tour operators.

“As part of the consultation process, a wide range of issues are being considered to inform the Detailed Business Case. Detailed technical studies will be completed and will consider potential impacts on Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage, maritime and landslide design, transport and traffic connections and other environmental impacts of a potential terminal. We will share more detail when these studies have been further progressed.”

On the lifestyle front, Mrs Holliday conceded there may be changes – but there would also be some upsides.

“While the project is in the early stages of investigation, Port Authority of NSW would be willing to work with the community to investigate investments in other recreational facilities.

“For example, kayak launches, swimming enclosures, other improvements to beach and shore-based facilities that improve access and use, landscaping, lighting, boardwalks and parking.”

He added:“I do accept that building anything like this anywhere has some level of downside.  We’re working hard to mitigate that and find enough benefits to make sure the area recognises in the fullness of time the facility is a great thing to have.”

But he was keen to answer the myths that were building up around the project.

“One person came to me outside the protest meeting and was very concerned about the compulsory purchase of his mother’s house and park land. I said that was not part of the cruise terminal plan at all. He was very comforted by my response.

“People are saying: ‘I’ll never be able to sail in the bay again’, but that’s not true. Will you be able to swim in the bay again? Yes, you will. The myths did surprise me. It’s fear of the unknown”.

A new facility at Port Botany would “inevitably” lead to road upgrades. “ Well into the future, a thriving cruise terminal will bring additional befits to the area and transport will be part of that,” he said.

On the prospect of dredging, another local concern over the environmental impact, he said: “One of the benefits of this location is proximity to existing shipping channels, deep water and the existing breakwater constructed in the 1970s. Detailed dredging requirements are being assessed as part of the Detailed Business Case.”

So what happens next? “The detailed business case is scheduled to go to the government  next year. They will make a decision to cease or proceed.

“Let’s assume it is to proceed: We would then go to the full environmental impact assessment. That’s when a great deal more consultation occurs and we’ll have a lot more answers to the questions people are interested in.

“We want to work with the local community to make sure the maximum benefit is achieved and we’re very keen on engagement and mutual understanding.  We’ll see where that take us.”

Yarra Bay is under consideration for the new terminal