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Byron Shire
September 28, 2021

Chinderah pontoon cost blows out

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The park at Chinderah Bay Drive near where the public pontoon will be built. Photo realestateview.com
The park at Chinderah Bay Drive near where the public pontoon will be built. Photo realestateview.com

Luis Feliu

The estimated cost of a controversial 30-metre-long public pontoon to be built on the Tweed River at Chinderah has doubled from around $120,000 to $240,000, with councillors this week to decide whether the project goes ahead.

Tweed Shire Council planners have recommended accepting one of six tenders to build the floating pontoon jetty and gangway at Chinderah Bay Drive, near the local tavern, for $187,250 (exclusive of GST), with any variations to be delegated to council’s general manager.

All tenders had exceeded the original $120,000 estimate.

Councillors on Thursday will vote on whether to accept the tender or discontinue the project altogether, a move likely to be pursued by Greens Cr Katie Milne who has long opposed the pontoon which she fears would eventually impact on riverbank erosion with increased use of high-speed power boats.

The original budget estimate for the project was $120,000 to $130,000, with staff saying that was based on a quote by a local pontoon construction contract provided to the community group pushing for the pontoon.

Staff then estimated what the total cost would be by comparing the proposed scale of the new facility with costs of the recently completed pontoon at Lakes Drive, Terranora Creek, giving a revised total project cost including any ancillary items to $240,000.

A large portion of the revised project cost includes landscaping and footpath construction.

Council’s natural resources director David Oxenham said in his report that the NSW Department of Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) advised council it would allocate an extra $60,000 to the project under its ‘Better Boating Program’.

Mr Oxenham said council would also allocate an additional $60,000 to the project from its 2014-2015 budget to cover the existing shortfall in the project funding.

‘As such, despite the project being significantly more expensive than originally estimated, it can be funded within existing financial year program constraints,’ he said.

A majority of councillors approved the pontoon two months ago, despite it drawing some flak over the past two years with various community and river-interest groups and businesses at loggerheads over the plan.

Cr Milne, a longtime advocate for river protection, failed in her push at September’s meeting for a third of the pontoon to be set aside for passive recreation such as fishing and swimming, saying it could be a bigger drawcard if not ‘dominated exclusively by power boats’.

She said residents and experts had concerns that the pontoon, in a tidal area, would attract more power boats which caused wake and eroding fragile riverbanks. More jet skis and wakeboarders were using the stretch of the river where the pontoon is planned and no-wake zones and lower speed limits for power boats should be considered.

Her political nemesis and conservative-faction leader, Cr Warren Polglase, had claimed that a $60,000 state government grant for the pontoon had been ‘lost’ because of what he said had been a delay in getting the project up and running.

Cr Milne yesterday told Echonetdaily that Cr Polglase’s claim was ’completely misleading’ with ‘the RMS now forking out for another $60,000’.

She also said there was ‘no mention of extra funding by the Chinderah Tavern’. (The tavern had originally offered $25,000 and the Chinderah Tavern Fishing Club $5,000. see https://www.echo.net.au/2013/03/chinderah-pontoon-funded)

Mr Oxenham said the pontoon ‘will service an existing demand in this reach of the Tweed River for boating access to shore based facilities’ and that the site chosen for it ‘took advantage of an existing gap in the shoreline mangrove growth’.

But he also warned that ‘it will be important in the construction of the facility that all possible measures are taken to prevent damage to mangrove and seagrass beds in the locality’.

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