NSW TOURISM MINISTER A ‘GARDEN ISLAND SCEPTIC’
SYDNEY is undeniably the cruise gateway for Australia, with an arrival into the iconic harbour featuring the Sydney Opera House and Harbour Bridge being on the bucket list for cruisers from across the globe. NSW Tourism Minister, Stuart Ayres, is acutely aware of the need to boost cruise ship capacity in order to continue the growth of the sector, but interestingly doesn’t believe that the naval facility at Garden Island is going to be the answer. Speaking at an industry function last month Ayres gave a frank assessment of Garden Island, saying it is clear the Navy has long term plans for the facility there which make it unlikely it will be able to fill the cruising gap. “I look out my window and see new big Navy ships tied up there, along with a long list of military infrastructure development, and I’m sceptical about the cruise industry using it on a regular basis,” he said. Ayres also noted that military operations tend to be by their very nature unpredictable. “We can’t plan our cruise ship arrivals around a Cyclone in Fiji, for example,” he said. Ayres isn’t dismissing Garden Island out of hand, and believes it will continue to be used on an occasional basis as at present. However it’s not looking likely it will provide the total solution. He confirmed his department is currently finalising a long-awaited cruise industry plan which aims to provide strategic direction for cruise operators – and that includes an evaluation of a variety of alternative docking sites around the harbour. “Some of these we haven’t looked at in a very long time,” he said, and once a shortlist is developed he will be speaking to the cruise companies about the development of infrastructure at each location. There’s no doubt the demand is strong, with a significant number of cruise operators already sending ships with capacity for 4000-plus passengers down under – none of which have any chance of getting underneath the Harbour Bridge.
I look out my window and see new big Navy ships tied up there... I’m sceptical about the cruise industry using it on a basis’ regular
Stuart Ayres, NSW Tourism Minister (centre) with Walter Nand and Sue Francis.