Glenn Costello from the Ballina Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be campaigning for a marina to be built in Ballina.
Glenn Costello from the Ballina Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be campaigning for a marina to be built in Ballina. Jay Cronan

Businesses want marina

SUMMER is the season for sailing but the Ballina business community has warned that tourist dollars will keep cruising past the town unless a commercial marina is built in Ballina.

The Ballina Chamber of Commerce believes sailors don't stop at Ballina because they can access ports with better facilities at Yamba and Coffs Harbour.

Ballina does have a small boat harbour but it is considered difficult to access due to shallow depths, dangerous tides and rough swells at the Ballina bar.

Ballina Chamber of Commerce secretary Glenn Costello has called for the Ballina bar to be dredged and for a new marina to be built in one of three potential sites.

The first area is the current RTA site (now the Roads and Maritime Services) over Fishery Creek Bridge on the left side of the old Pacific highway. The marina would go from there to Fishing Boat Harbour.

"That would be the focus of the main marina precinct," Mr Costello said. "Boats that come into the river and into the marina area would be able to refuel and have maintenance done on their boats.

"We'd also hope to have accommodation for people and a marina set up so they can live there, have their boats serviced and visit restaurants and so on. That would cost a lot of money and you would need a developer."

Captain Cook Park next to Ballina RSL Club is the second potential site and Mr Costello said council was looking at redeveloping it in a similar way to Fawcett Park.

The area surrounding the Ramada Hotel is the third potential site and there's already a small marina there. Mr Costello said council was looking at "tidying that up with modern equipment".

A world-class marina would greatly benefit Ballina's economy, he said.

"I'd say (the economic benefits) would be quite substantial because it doesn't just bring the people and boats in; it brings auxiliary businesses, from boat shops to repairs, and all those facilities," he explained.

"Ballina used to be a boat building community in the old days, and who knows, we might get one or two small boat builders setting up in Ballina like they have in Yamba."

However, there's no point building a world-class marina if the treacherous Ballina bar continues to stop boats from getting in.

"Don Page has already said they will look at dredging the mouth of the river because obviously access is extremely important and we need that maintenance done," Mr Costello said.

"Whether it's short term or if it becomes an ongoing area where they dredge on a regular basis, Don Page has approved it; at least the ball has started rolling."