They must be dreamin’! That’s the first thought entering many minds when it was announced the North Coast would get a cruise boat terminal at either Yamba (near Grafton) or Coffs Harbour.
Clarence Valley’s new mayor Jim Simmons was quick to jump on board the idea to support Yamba and Grafton's tourist credentials. “Oh yeh, we’d give it a go at Grafton. We’ve got the best beaches up here and I think Coffs Harbour has had its fair share of things and it’s time other places got a go,” he says.
A terminal has been proposed near Yamba even though there are some pretty major hurdles – including a reef sacred to Yaegl aborigines, sits at the entrance to the Clarence, only five metres under the high water mark.
No matter what, Mr Simmons reckons passengers, if they can defy the underwater geographics, will be amazed if they stop at Yamba and head up to Grafton on the Clarence or stay on the coast at Yamba. “There’s plenty of things to see, we have the best beaches in the state, if not Australia,” he says.
Maybe with Grafton’s famous jacaranda festival in fill swing any future cruise boat travellers could be offered jacaranda hulas when they step off the boat. They could do a mini-cruise up the Clarence, visit magnificent rainforests behind Grafton, visit the Coldstream Gallery or call in at Old Codger’s Antiques. Of course the day would be ended with a stroll along Yamba’s famous sandy beaches.
And how would this compare to Coffs Harbour? At Coffs they might get a bag of bananas when they get off the boat, then visit the Big Banana, then the pet porpoise pool or take in magnificent views from Forest Sky Pier.
A cruise dream? Not if you’re a politician on the North Coast. There’s been promises on a cruise ship terminal at Coffs Harbour for nearly a decade, but NSW Roads Minister Melinda Pavey and her counterpart Transport Minister Andrew Constance upped the ante this week, putting a Coffs terminal on the long-term strategy, while visiting Coffs, during a future transport tour. Mr Constance has vowed to expedite plans for the terminal.
“The Cruise Industry is booming and is set to get bigger in coming years. A cruise terminal would give the region a share of that industry,” Mr Constance said.
The new terminal will link tourists to the wider North Coast area.
“This is a major step, with the need for a facility being recognised in the 10 to 20 year horizon, so early investigations can begin now”, Mrs Pavey said.
But their own Nationals colleague, Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, put, well, a bit of a bucket on the Yamba idea pretty quickly.
"Just where passengers would embark and disembark is not known,” he told the Grafton Daily Examiner.
"Goodwood Island could handle the size of the vessels, but its facilities have been used for live cattle exports and it's well away from Yamba. The only other place I can think of is at the marina on the other side of the wall, where the fishing boats moor.”
The Yaegl People would have to approve and ships would have to steer well clear of the sacred Dirrangun reef. It’s possible smaller cruise vessels could get up the Clarence.
"I think the maximum draught at Yamba is about five metres, so that should limit the size of the vessels to no bigger than 5000 tonnes,” he said.
A Yamba shipping agent said: “Yamba is and always will be a small port.” Many Yamba residents say they will have to kiss their paradise goodbye if a terminal was built there. It seems the cruise ship idea at Yamba may stay out at sea.