By UTE SCHULENBERG
NAMBUCCA commercial fisherman Chris Davis's family first came to Nambucca Heads in the late 1800s.
"We've been fishing these waters for generations," Mr Davis said.
"I've never seen the sand problem this bad ? tourists are saying they're not returning because of it. We need to be doing maintenance dredging."
Mr Davis was one of about 100 residents who attended a public meeting on Wednesday night to discuss the sand problem in the Nambucca River estuary and its impact on tourism.
The meeting follows the gathering of close to 5000 signatures in 18 days on a petition calling for the dredging of the river, which was circulated by the town's chamber of commerce.
While some residents warned the problem was historical and once dredging began it would have to be continued, most of those present supported maintenance dredging.
Competition angler Greg Barnett said he had not seen anywhere along the coast where dredging had been successful.
"Unless we have a southern break wall, dredging will not help," Mr Barnett said.
The mayor, Cr George Hicks, said money was the solution to the problem.
"Private enterprise is interested in building a marina at Nambucca if they can get government approval," Cr Hicks said.
"The council has spent $160,000 (mainly funded by grants) on an estuary study.
"Now we'll have to have plan ? the government departments need a plan."
After listening to the views expressed at the meeting, the leader of the NSW Nationals and member for Oxley, Andrew Stoner, said the main problem seemed to be the lack of a main navigable channel.
"The Nationals have a policy of supporting mobile dredging operations on the coast, subject to environmental considerations," Mr Stoner said.
The chamber of commerce president, Ken Winton, said he would be presenting the petition to the NSW minister for rivers, Tony Kelly, as soon as possible.