The NSW Government has announced up to $3 million of funding to support the extension of the Breakwater wharf in the Port of Eden, allowing it to better accommodate cruise ships in a major boost to the local tourism industry.
Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner and Member for Bega Andrew Constance visited Snug Cove to make the announcement on Thursday, meeting with several local stakeholders to discuss their plans.
Mr Stoner said the funding is contingent upon the success of an application for a $10 million grant from the Commonwealth Government, while the Bega Valley Shire Council will also provide $2 million towards the project.
The Deputy Premier said the potential combined funding of $15 million heralded the start of a new era for the town.
“Some of the mainstays of the local economy here have gone through some pretty tough times because of restructures, and as a result we’ve seen a lot of jobs disappear,” he said.
“The retail and hospitality sectors depend on those fundamental industries doing well, so if we have a replacement industry in the form of cruise ships, and hopefully thousands of tourists coming into Eden, it will create a lot of jobs.
“Cruise ship tourists also love to spend, and whether it’s a coffee, meal, souvenir or an admission to a particular attraction, they’ll do it.
“But unless you give them the opportunity, they’re not going to be opening up their wallets in your part of the world.”
Mr Stoner said the Government aims to begin construction by the end of 2014, with work to be complete in time for the 2015-16 summer season; the peak time of the year for the cruise ship industry.
Plans are already being set in motion, and Cruise Eden coordinator Gail Ward said she is in discussions with Carnival Australia, who plan to bring 26 ships into the Port of Eden per annum by 2018.
Equally excited by the prospect is Sapphire Coast Tourism board member Jenny Robb, who said that the cruise ships would continue to boost already climbing figures.
Recently released figures show domestic tourism growth at 2.7%, with the Sapphire Coast region growing at a rate of 21.5%, and Eden sitting behind only Wollongong as the most popular south coast destination.
“This is all linking in with the Australia’s Coastal Wilderness developments and some of the bigger picture stuff that Sapphire Coast Tourism has been working on,” Ms Robb said.
“These ships are going to set Eden apart from everything on the Far South Coast, but not only have we got people wandering around town and shopping locally, some of them are going out of town, so the whole region is recognising the benefits of the cruise ship industry.”
While excited by the prospect, Port of Eden Marina (POEM) president Fritz Drenkhahn believes the wharf extension is merely the gateway to a wave of potential investment from the private sector.
Mr Drenkhahn said the NSW Government has advised the group that it will conduct a cost-benefit analysis on construction of a wave attenuator, something he says will create a safe harbour and attract private investment in the town.
“The cruise ships will come in once a week or once a fortnight, but this town is here 365 days per year,” he said.
“For a $5 million investment for a wave attenuator, we’ve got the advantage of generating up to $100 million in private infrastructure and real estate.
“The cost-benefit analysis will clearly show the benefits to the region and the town; the multitude of the turnover of a $5million investment for $100 million is too hard to knock back.”
Eden Realty manager licensee Glenn Brunette agrees, and said there are great opportunities for development within the town.
Mr Brunette said approximately 14 hectares of green field sites within Eden are suitable for development, including the former tuna cannery.
“We need a catalyst, and that is clearly the port development,” he said.
“That has been stipulated by the developers themselves, who have come out and said that’s what they’re interested in.
“It creates a whole new chapter of new jobs and opportunities.
“The demand is there for it, but we need this development to happen.”