Coffs missing out on lost opportunity

By BELINDA SCOTT

DREDGING Coffs Harbour's namesake port is becoming an urgent necessity.

At 8am yesterday organisers of the 2008 Pittwater to Coffs Harbour yacht race decided to avoid the city in case yachts battling rough weather could not get into the harbour.

The decision means the city's 2008 Festival of Sail will have no local sailing events and casts doubt on the harbour's status as the safe water port between Newcastle and Brisbane.

Maree Walden, the Vice-President of the Coffs Harbour Chamber of Commerce, said although all the land events would go ahead as planned, the decision would hurt the city economically.

It is the first time in the ocean race's 27-year history that extreme weather conditions have kept the yachts in the warm water classic out of Coffs Harbour.

Ms Walden, who has business interests in tourism, said there were ongoing problems with the build-up of sand in the harbour, which needed constant dredging.

She said during the year some yachts had been unable to get out of the harbour and the situation meant Coffs Harbour was unable to 'piggyback' on other sailing events like August's Hamilton Island race series, where it would be ideal to host the returning fleet during one of Coffs Harbour's quietest times for tourism.

She said the Chamber needed to work with Coffs Harbour City Council and other interested parties to find a solution.

Coffs Harbour City Councillor Rod McKelvey said the race bypass was a graphic demonstration of the sad state of affairs coming from the state government not fulfilling its responsibility.

The NSW Department of Lands is supposed to dredge harbours but he said the council had had no luck convincing them to do so.

"We had a warning last year when Wild Oats was 'bouncing off the bottom'; and didn't come into the harbour and this is the worst possible outcome," he said.

The Department of Lands arranged minor dredging of 500 cubic metres of sand at the entrance to the boat harbour in December to give access to deep-keeled boats.

About 50,000 cubic metres of sand drifts into the harbour every year.



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