The new NSW Labor government has ruled out Botany Bay as a way of boosting Sydney’s cruise ship capacity, sparking fresh hopes that the Navy base at Garden Island may be brought back into play.

Both NSW and the Federal Government have changed to Labor since Malcolm Turnbull turned down pleas for Garden Island to be a shared facility in 2017. The Navy is opposed to such plans, but may now find itself outflanked.

The decision to rule against Botany Bay – where Yarra Bay residents have fought a strong battle to halt the proposal – is no surprise.  But it leaves the burgeoning cruise industry, which delivers tens of thousands of tourists and $2.5 billion to the state, in limbo.

The state government has said a new search will begin – but there are few alternatives.  Some 50 cruise ships will delivery around 1 million passengers during the next season, which starts in September.

Yarra Bay in Botany Bay
Yarra Bay in Botany Bay

Sydney, the number one desired destination for most overseas cruisers, is already losing ships to Melbourne and Brisbane. Royal Caribbean’s biggest ships are based in Brisbane and Virgin Voyages, a newcomer to our market, is homeporting in Melbourne.

The Liberals, ousted in Canberra by the Labor government of Anthony Albanese, had ruled out sharing Garden Island despite a report by former Liberal leader Peter Collins saying it was the best way to boost capacity.

Since that decision, the Navy is believed to have made a number of structural changes to their Garden Island wharves that make sharing more difficult.

Cunard’s trans Atlantic liner Queen Mary II was the last cruise ship to share the facility, which is in the heart of the city’s Eastern Suburbs.

Mr Collins told the Sydney Morning Herald Garden Island “is and always will be” the best place for additional cruise capacity.

He told the paper: “It is not a case of removing the navy from Garden Island.  it is just a shared facility for likely a dozen times a year when one of the super ships come in.”

The paper reported federal Assistant Minister for Defence Matt Thistlethwaite as saying the Commonwealth would work with NSW to fix the problem