The Australian Yachting Federation has issued a statement on the loss of a vital sailing facility in Sydney.
The Australian Yachting Federation (AYF) has been lobbying, on behalf of the sailing and broader community, for more than four years for a legacy from the Olympic Games, in the form of a marina, to remain at Rushcutters Bay.
Whilst the AYF has had no official notification, it is understood that the NSW Premier, Bob Carr, announced last Thursday in NSW Parliament that the marina built for the Olympic Games is to be removed. If this report is accurate, the decision, taken to appease local independent MP, Clover Moore, and a minority group of local residents, is clearly against the best interests of the people of New South Wales and Australia.
There is an acute shortage of marina berths in Sydney. There is no venue from which major national or international keelboat events can be run. The removal of the marina means that these events, and the significant economic benefits associated with them, are now lost.
"We are aware of four major events, being planned for 2002 and 2003, awaiting a positive decision regarding the retention of the marina. We estimate that the economic impact of these events alone would have been in the region of three million dollars," explained Phil Jones, CEO of the AYF. "Events such as the 2002 Gay Games sailing regatta now have no marina base. This decision will make this event, and others like it, very difficult to stage in Sydney Harbour and will make Sydney far less attractive as a venue."
"The uses that the AYF has outlined will have a very limited impact on the local area," continued Jones. "Major events, almost by definition, are held infrequently. At other times limited use of the marina, mainly for boats already berthed in the area, would clean up the bay and generate a much needed income stream."
In January, the NSW Government established a Task Force to investigate the management of the Olympic facilities outside Sydney Olympic Park. The AYF had meetings with this Task Force and made a submission regarding the management of the marina and the adjacent Sir David Martin Reserve. Copies of the submission are available from the AYF on request. The AYF also wrote to every member of Cabinet making the case for the retention of the marina.
"The NSW Government appears to have bowed to political pressure and the views of a minority of local residents," says Jones. "The majority of the community will simply not understand the Government position. Why spend close to a million dollars building a marina for which there is a clear on-going need and which will bring significant economic benefits to the local area and then spend yet more taxpayer money to remove it. On any basis, the decision is clearly not in the public interest."
Prior to the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the buildings on the Sir David Martin Reserve were derelict. The NSW Government spent millions of dollars demolishing some buildings and restoring others with heritage value. The venue for the Olympic Sailing Regatta has been acknowledged as one of the best in the world.
Clearly, just as is the case with Sydney Olympic Park, the NSW Government gave no thought as to the management of the Olympic venues after the Olympic Games. Unlike the Stadium however, the Government are now prepared to spend significantly more tax payers money, not to provide a positive solution, but to remove a much needed facility.
Unfortunately the NSW Government decision to remove the marina means it is likely that the Sir David Martin Reserve will become the white elephant that some other Olympic venues already are. The lack of activity and security on the Reserve makes it more likely that it will again become a target for vandals and a base for the homeless.
According to the Premier, the venue must now operate under a plan of management put in place to appease a small number of local residents before the Olympics. This Plan limits the organisations able to occupy the buildings to those with a "public and maritime purpose". Thus the choice of tenants and opportunity to generate rental is very limited. The heritage buildings that will remain on the Sir David Martin Reserve will require extensive upkeep and maintenance.
The retention of the marina would have provided much needed income to fund the maintenance and repair of the buildings. The Government decision to remove the marina means that this is no longer an option.
The Government is now to hand responsibility for the Sir David Martin Reserve to Woollahra Council. Having removed the opportunity that would have allowed the Reserve to become self-sustaining, this becomes a poison chalice for the Council. The buildings will soon once again be derelict unless the Council is prepared to make the necessary ongoing financial commitment. The Reserve is set to become a liability for the ratepayers of Woollahra.
The Premier suggests that the ten berths that will remain, together with the hard stand area and hoists, will be used primarily by sailors with disabilities. He seems to forget that the Plan under which the venue will operate means cars cannot park on the Sir David Martin Reserve. Quite how some sailors with disabilities, who rely on their vehicles for support, will be able to use the venue is a question the Premier may wish to address.
The Plan also means that there is no opportunity to base the Australian and NSW Institute of Sport Sailing Programs from the venue. This use would have provided additional income for the maintenance of the Reserve, relieving the burden on the ratepayers.
"Sailing was the second most successful sport at the 2000 Olympic Games and the new AIS Program is a direct result of this performance", reflects Victor Kovalenko, coach to the two Gold medal crews in the 470 Class and now AYF Head Coach. "It is very disappointing that the state government is not even prepared to support its own NSW Institute of Sport Program by ensuring it has a base from which to operate."
The AYF are grateful for the support that they have received from the Australian Sports Commission, the Australian Olympic Committee, the New South Wales Institute of Sport, the New South Wales Yachting Association, the sailing community and many local residents who support the retention of the marina and proper use of the facilities on the Sir David Martin Reserve. The AYF will continue to seek an outcome, involving proper use of the marina and the Sir David Martin Reserve, that is in the best interests of the public of Sydney, New South Wales and Australia.