Ferries stop as Ettalong Channel silts up
Shifting sand bars in the Ettalong Channel have resulted in the Palm Beach ferry service being suspended.
Palm Beach services have been redirected to Patonga, with a free shuttle bus service introduced last Monday between Ettalong and Patonga wharfs.
Transport for NSW announced the bus will run Monday to Friday in the morning peak from 5.30am to 9.30am, and in the afternoon peak from 2.30pm to 6.30pm.
It also announced a shuttle ferry service between Wagstaffe and Ettalong would start soon, but details are not yet available.
"The shuttle bus will leave about 35 minutes before the ferry departure time from Patonga wharf," according to a statement issued by Transport for NSW.
"A weekend shuttle bus service will run extended hours during the day to meet the current scheduled timetable."
The bus service could be in place for some time, as dredging the Ettalong Channel is not expected to start for months.
The transport department stated it was currently seeking all necessary licence and environmental approvals.
"The NSW Coastal Dredging Strategy has identified the Ettalong Channel as a significant investment location, prioritising it for dredging to ensure safe navigation, including for the use of local ferry services," the statement said.
Member for Gosford Ms Liesl Tesch said: "This shuttle bus service, which has not been provided in the past, is a proactive solution to our communities transport needs, while work for a comprehensive dredging plan takes place.
"The need for dredging is unpredictable, impacted by Mother Nature, severe weather events and the day-to-day movement of the ocean ecosystem.
"An effective and ongoing dredging program is needed to address the issue."
Ms Tesch said dredging was planned for October this year.
The aim is to remove 10,000 cubic metres of sand from two areas, south of the Half Tide Rocks and south of the Sand Spit, subject to obtaining the necessary Crown Lands licence and environmental approvals.
The Maritime Infrastructure Delivery Office had engaged an expert consultant to assist in preparing the required environmental approval for the first stage.
It will also engage with potential dredging contactors to ensure work can begin as soon as possible after approval is granted, she said.
She said the department was preparing a 10-year plan "for maintenance dredging of the entire channel".
"Locals are all too aware that dredging of the channel has been an ongoing issue."
Member for Terrigal Mr Adam Crouch criticised the Government for its slow action.
He said that it took a week since this issue arose before there was a response.
Mr Crouch said that funding for dredging was available and ready to go.
He said it was "unacceptable" that dredging would not occur until October.
"Dredging needs to happen as soon as possible, not October.
"The responsibility falls on the State Government."
Transport Minister Ms Jo Haylen said last week: "The new Government is investigating alternative arrangements to minimise the impacts on commuters and is looking to secure planning approval and begin work on restoring the ferry service as quickly as possible.
"When the Minns Labor Government came into office, there was no planning approval for this vital dredging, so we're working quickly to address this issue that we inherited.
"Mr Crouch was serving as the Parliamentary Secretary for the Central Coast in the former Liberal Government less than 100 days ago.
"Dredging at Ettalong was Mr Crouch's responsibility and he let it build up."
Ms Tesch said she would work with Mr Crouch to reach a solution for our community.
"People need to be able to plan their lives and social responsibilities.
"This not something to be politicised.
"This is something to be prioritised regardless of who is in government."
Media Release, 17 Jun 2023
Transport for NSW