Alan Ellis of Alloy Engineering and Marine with Michael Cocks (back left) of the Ballina Slipway and Ballina resident Chris Cusack would like to see the Smith Drive Precinct returned to a manufacturing and tourist-based boating mecca.
Alan Ellis of Alloy Engineering and Marine with Michael Cocks (back left) of the Ballina Slipway and Ballina resident Chris Cusack would like to see the Smith Drive Precinct returned to a manufacturing and tourist-based boating mecca. Jay Cronan

Boat builders' sinking feeling

BOAT builders in West Ballina fear new regulations could sink their plans to promote maritime tourism on Emigrant Creek and the Richmond River.

Smith Drive Industrial Estate, which backs onto Emigrant Creek, has been covered by a council development control plan which promotes industrial marine activities.

But boat builders and property owners in the estate are worried the draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) will remove this arrangement.

Boat builder of 38 years Alan Ellis said he's worried the new zoning could prevent the development of a boat-hire industry on Emigrant Creek.

"This area is on the southern gateway, so it has great exposure; there's a beautiful creek and a beautiful river so it would be ideal for houseboats, hire boats and eco-tourism," Mr Ellis said.

"I have been here at times when there have been several hundred people employed in this street and that can happen again."

Smith Drive property owner Chris Cusack said the zoning changes seem "ambiguous" but he's hopeful councillors will support the tourism plans.

"We believe the creek would be a great recreational resource and the zoning should reflect this," Mr Cusack said.

Slipway and Marine Services owner Michael Cocks said since Ballina's marina was closed in 2002, Smith Drive has been the focus of the boat industry.

"The facilities we provide are all that Ballina has, so it would be great to see the town get behind it and get the marine industry going again," Mr Cocks said.

However the council's strategic and community services group manager Steve Barnier said allowing tourism in Smith Drive would require a change to the LEP.

"The Smith Drive Precinct is an industrial area within which marine industry is supported or advocated. Diversification of industrial uses toward commercial or tourist-orientated developments would require further consideration by the council," Mr Barnier said.

The draft LEP is awaiting approval from the Department of Planning.



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