Documents obtained under NSW Freedom of Information rules has revealed concerns were raised by the NSW transport department that a proposal by the cruise industry for ships to be allowed into Jervis Bay would likely require dredging or anchoring that would harm sensitive seagrass, oyster reefs and other marine habitats within the marine park.
The documents obtained by South Coast based Independent NSW MP Justin Field included a response by Transport for NSW (TfNSW) to the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) on a draft version of the ‘NSW Mainland Marine Park Network - Draft Management Plan 2021-2031’.
Feedback provided to the draft management plan by TfNSW and signed off in April 2021 included the following warnings (see attached documents for screenshots of relevant sections):
“Any dredging needed to accommodate cruise ships is liable to affect local patterns of wave refraction and in turn have a range of secondary environmental impacts on shorelines, seagrasses and shallow habitats well beyond the dredged area.”
The response concluded that anchorages should only be in places where dredging is not required, however TfNSW further warned that:
“Much of the bay’s deeper seafloor supports a complex habitat based on oyster reef, deep water algae and sponge gardens - and cruise ship anchoring would likely harm these habitats.”
TfNSW also rejected the proposal in the draft management plan that they be the lead agency for implementation of this proposed action.
Independent NSW MLC Justin Field said, “These documents raise yet more questions about who within the NSW Coalition Government is pushing the cruise industry’s agenda. If Transport for NSW didn’t want anything to do with it and warned of environmental damage to the Jervis Bay Marine Park, why has Fisheries agreed to take the lead in investigating the opportunity for cruise ships in the Bay?
“These documents show cruise ships in Jervis Bay are entirely inconsistent with the values of the marine park and would cause environmental damage to the sensitive marine environment and have an impact on other users like tourism and aquaculture.
“I stand with the community who want all reference to cruise ships in Jervis Bay removed entirely from the Network Management Plan. Marine Parks are no place for the cruise industry”, Mr Field said.
Penny Davidson from the Jervis Bay Community CruiseShip Coalition said, “Jervis Bay not only has a nearly pristine aquatic environment but also a thriving tourism industry that depends on that protection.
“We’re incredibly concerned because neither the government departments nor the Port Authority have released studies showing how cruise ships can be brought into Jervis Bay without harming the marine environment and this new information suggests that will be difficult to do.
“We’ve lost trust in the government as the cruise industry are still selling tickets for cruises that will use Jervis Bay as a port while the Government is sitting on information that suggests there are real environmental risks from allowing that to happen.