Mayor Carmelo Pesce has led a move for a council backflip on a proposed ban on boating and anchoring around Deeban Spit in Port Hacking.
Cr Pesce gave advance notice he would move at this week’s council meeting the Department of Primary Industries – NSW Fisheries be advised the council no longer supported a ban.
The wording was subsequently changed to state the council had “modified” its position.
There was heated debate before the matter was deferred pending further studies, community consultation and a visit by councillors to the site, where boats often anchor and picnics are held.
Cr Pesce’s move has met with a strong community response, with environmental groups opposing his move and boating clubs and recreational fishing enthusiasts supporting it.
In December 2018, the council endorsed a report by staff to ask the state government to add Deeban Spit to the proposed new Sydney Marine Park.
The submission requested the spit become a special purpose zone, where bait collection, boating and anchoring would be banned.
A report by the Leader is believed to have led to lobbying of councillors to reverse the move.
Cr Pesce said in his motion the Deeban Spit area was already subject to restrictions, such as the use of fishing nets and the taking of shellfish.
Increasing restrictions “have potential to significantly impact on the community’s use and enjoyment of the area,” he said.
“While anchoring and propeller scour have potential to impact on ecological values, the spit is also an important recreation resource for the community.
“The protection of this area needs to be balanced against the long held recreational use by young people, families and visitors, and its importance to the local tourist economy and other local businesses.”
Cr Pesce, on Friday, rejected the “backflip” description.
He said the council’s position had not changed and his motion was an attempt to “clarify” the matter.
Cr Pesce said, following the meeting, he had received numerous emails of support and a petition had gathered many signatures.
He said he had learnt there were a number of supporters of his motion in the public gallery along with a large group representing environmental groups, who were opposed.
The Southern Sydney Branch of the National Parks Association of NSW described the attempted backflip as “inexplicable” and “clearly based on political pragmatism”.
Association secretary Gary Schoer told the meeting the “mayoral rescission motion”, if successful, would ironically negate the excellent arguments the council had already put for supporting very conservative additions of sanctuary zones to the marine estate”.
Mr Schoer said Cr Pesce’s motion did not align with the council’s past support for a marine park off Royal National Park and Port Hacking in 1992 when there were proposals to sand mining offshore from Royal National Park.
The council’s submission had been based on published scientific studies.
Mr Schoer said the studies showed boats, people and the dogs that often accompanied them would cause displacement of endangered shorebirds that relied on Deeban Spit.
Studies had also concluded boating activity and anchoring in the shallow waters around Deeban Spit would decimate the seagrass community as well as the fish nurseries that depend on their protection.