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Scotland Island - Western Shores - Mackeral Beach
November 21 2011
Newsletter for Offshore Residents of Pittwater, Australia


“What’s Happening to the Commuter Pontoon”

“The strength of a community is directly proportional to the degree of diversity of opinion
it can accommodate and still retain its essential good will”. Peter Keyan, 1996

The democratic process is alive and well! It is good to see some robust discussion on issues pertaining to Church Point (albeit maybe not on Sunday evening). If you wish, you may skip the following background and proceed to the section where we will attempt to make a first response to the article and questions posted in the PON.

It is important when forming views on these matters that one has all the relevant information, as decisions and actions taken now will have significant implications not only on the future of Church Point, but also on the amenity of those who live in the Offshore areas now and for the next 30 to 50 years.
What is essential is that the issue of the final design of the Church Point Commuter Wharf and the Church Point Plan of Management (CPPOM) proposals for future parking at Church Point are intimately linked.

Brief Background

There has always been strongly held views regarding Church Point, both by the Offshore Communities and, in particular, various Onshore groups. Not only have the Onshore groups advocated that there should be no extra parking spaces created at Church Point, but that indeed a number of spaces in the main carpark should be turned into green space.

If you are new to this issue, some of the pertinent points to be aware of are:

Since the early 1970’s there have been numerous grand plans, meetings and consultant’s reports relating to Church Point.
  • On May 28, 2004, the Department of Lands (responsible for these Crown Lands) wrote a letter to Pittwater Council stating “currently 80% of the land is used for private carparking by Offshore residents. Whilst the public purpose includes parking this must be public parking and not private usage as currently occurs. This land must be open to the public generally as a right. Government policy is to maximize public access to foreshore land, in particular publicly owned land”.
  • On March 14, 2005 the Department of Lands then wrote a follow‐up letter to Council stating “Further, in developing a Plan of Management, cessation of long term carparking in the Church Point Reserve must be effective from June 30, 2007”.
Negotiations continued with the Department of Lands over the next 4 years. In 2006, the Department of Lands tentatively agreed that Offshore residents could park overnight in what would be a significantly reduced carpark, but at an annual fee of $1,200 per annum for the use of this prime crown land.

In 2008, in principle approval to rezone the Reserve at Church Point and legitimise the right and ability to park in the Reserve was given, subject to Council’s adoption of a Church Point Plan of Management (CPPOM). This Plan allows the creation of additional parking spaces opposite the Commuter Wharf. Various Onshore groups, with the strong support of the Department of Lands, required that the CPPOM include the non‐optional reduction of 30 parking spaces in the main carpark for green space.

It is also important to note that written legal advice obtained from Mallesons Stephen Jaques several years ago stated that neither Council nor any other government body has a legal responsibility to provide parking at Church Point for Offshore residents to access their homes. The support we now have from Council so that we can access our homes is a moral consideration and a gesture of goodwill.

In all levels of politics and community life what is called “confirmational bias” means that people often mix with others who support their own views giving the impression that this is “the majority view”. To gauge more accurate opinion, SIRA in partnership with WPCA, is developing a survey of every Offshore household with regard to Options for Precinct 1 at Church Point; the Commuter Wharf area. The design of this survey has required significant community consultation and its distribution has been delayed.

Pittwater Council were successful in securing a grant of $200,000.00 from NSW Maritime for a new Commuter Pontoon at Church Point. These funds are required to be expended in the short term hence the need to proceed with these works. We must not lose this funding opportunity by delaying the tender process otherwise the boat parking fees will increase.

Response to Questions and Issues Raised

As stated above, the issue of the final design of the Church Point Commuter Wharf and the future of parking at Church Point are intimately linked. For the moment, we would like to make an immediate response to the article and questions posted in the PON.

Do you want to keep the cost of boat stickers to a minimum e.g. $100 instead of $285 per year?
Of course lesser fees are desirable and every effort is being made to keep them as low as possible within the constraints explained in the following responses. The sketch provided is an un‐costed concept plan which seems to propose the construction of a “mirror” of the existing Wharf with an additional entrance closer to the centre of Church Point at a cost almost one‐third the advertised proposal. This is very optimistic.

How do we get the most value for our money?

Estimated cost for the coming works is nearly half a million dollars. $300,000 is the money collected from our carpark stickers, fines and meters in the last year. There are simple, cost‐effective plans that could be considered and put to tender. Here are two possibilities that incorporate the existing pontoon and so would be cheaper for us. Both options below are suggestions for the first stage of pontoon works. The PoM Plan is shown dotted. The second stage would depend on decision about infill to extend road/carparking and which first stage pontoon design is chosen.
  1. The final design and costings are still being determined. We have stated clearly to Council that the fees should be lower than publicly advertised, but this cannot be determined until final costings are available.
  2. Council has already secured $200,000 in grant funding from NSW Maritime (which must be expended or lost) which contributes to a facility that benefits our Community.
  3. Since the inception of the scheme in 2010, $300,000 has been accrued from Church Point Parking Permits, fines and parking meters. This represents 2 years of Parking Permit fees, not 1 year as stated in the article, and these funds have been set aside to contribute to additional parking infrastructure. These funds could be used as a short‐term loan to reduce the Commuter Wharf fees. In order to do this, however, agreement would need to be sought from those who have purchased Permits on the basis that these funds would be used for carparking facilities. Some people may not use the Commuter Wharf.
  4. The existing pontoons could be reused, though consideration would have to be given to the fact that the concrete structure has deteriorated requiring sealing with epoxy resin to maintain its longevity. At this stage there is no engineering certification on the economic life of the existing pontoons.
  5. The key point is the location of the future Commuter Wharf. This has been verified by accurate professional surveying and not just concept drawings. It is not possible for the Commuter Wharf to remain in its current position and allow for additional car spaces opposite as shown in the CPPOM.
  6. There have been many designs for additional parking in this area, all of which have been assessed by the Church Point Design Committee of Offshore and Onshore representatives plus Council. However, with the non‐negotiable reduction of 30 parking spaces from the main carpark, any alternate designs that have been considered have resulted in very marginal increases or no increase in net parking.
  7. We do not have a mandate to reject the plans in the current CPPOM. At the moment, people are paying fees on the basis of the CCPOM, as adopted and accepted. If the design is to be changed to establish a new mandate, we would need to consult with the Offshore Communities, stakeholders who have signed off on the current plan, such as Department of Lands, NSW Fisheries, RTA, NSW Maritime, Pittwater Council, Onshore resident groups, plus neighbouring businesses.
Do you want an option to retain the current pontoon as part of the new works to keep costs down? (as in the above sketches)
  1. RESPONSE: As stated we will seek the reuse, or the use elsewhere, of the existing Commuter Wharf. To introduce a new un‐costed concept design to create a “mirror” of the existing Wharf with an additional entrance, as shown in the sketches, at a cost of almost one‐third the advertised proposal is very optimistic.
Our current 65 metre commuter pontoon has an estimated 10‐20 years of life left.
  1. RESPONSE: Yes, but as stated above, the current concrete pontoons require ongoing maintenance. Regardless of the final design, the existing pontoons can potentially be re‐used for the benefit of the Offshore Communities. An Engineering Certificate on the economic life expectancy of the existing structure will confirm this opportunity.
The advertised plan was to re‐use it as wings on the new longer main pontoon. Council has now stated that it is no longer to be re‐used and so half a million dollars will give us a new ramp with disability access and 100 metre main pontoon with far fewer additional boat spaces.

  1. RESPONSE: See Response 4) above. What is being said is not clear, as the whole point of a new Wharf is to create additional boat spaces to improve safety and amenity.

Council, like us, is keen to address safety issues caused by parking boats two‐deep on the shore side. But many of us choose this option to give our boats more protection. It would be great if the design offered us as many sheltered spots as possible.

  1. RESPONSE: The new Wharf will be longer and provide more boat spaces on the shore side.
Have you thought about how it’s going to look?

  1. RESPONSE: Good question, the issue of design has been a prime consideration of the CPPOM.
Any extension of pontoons takes up more space in this open water view. In evaluating designs, thought needs to be given to retaining the natural beauty of this waterway for on‐ and offshore residents and the general public.

  1. RESPONSE: Very true, visual amenity, functionality, cost and integration with the other components of the CCPOM have been the key factors in the design.
Do you want to extend the pontoon in stages and see what our needs are after the introduction of boat stickers?

  1. RESPONSE: This is indeed what is happening. The tendering process allows for staged construction. At the same time, caution should apply to temporary arrangements as these often become permanent.
Keeping money in the bank simply allows us the flexibility to stage works as they are needed. For example, the carpark stickers have helped reduce numbers in the carpark, and the details of the proposed new carparking opposite the commuter wharf area are yet to be discussed.

  1. RESPONSE: See Response 1) and 2) a), b) and c) above. The Parking Permits have initially reduced numbers in the carpark, but this might not be the case in 5, 10 or 50 years time when demand for parking spaces may return to previous levels. Currently, the Offshore Communities are the lowest vehicle using group in Pittwater. The small shift in the location of the Commuter Wharf is necessary to implement the creation of additional carparking directly opposite the Commuter Wharf and adjacent to the hillside as shown in the CPPOM. Not proceeding with this may be a great disservice to current and future Offshore residents.
But isn’t this all settled already by the Church Point Plan of Management?

There is general support from the offshore community for the plan which finally gives us the legal right to park in Church Point Reserve.
  1. RESPONSE: Indeed, the broad community mandate for the CPPOM was established through several large public meetings which involved all stakeholders. In addition, during its development stage the significant majority of correspondence received by Council from Offshore residents supported the CCPOM.
The Management Plan assures us of ongoing detailed resident consultation before any works are implemented. The design for the pontoon works is about to be finalised and we’ve written this because we think broader community input is valuable.

  1. RESPONSE: Excellent, but any input to the plan should be well informed. We are advocating for the lowest cost possible and for the reuse of the existing Wharf structure (even if not at Church Point). We do need to make sure that any decision made now will not reduce the number of parking spaces as shown in the CPPOM.
The opportunity is right now or never.

  1. RESPONSE: Yes, things are happening now. The proposed design has been on display for the past month and there has been much work behind the scenes. Any input is welcomed for consideration.
Do you want the chance to find out more and discuss options?

Contact SIRA and WPCA and Council staff ASAP‐ within next few days. Council staff are discussing this on Monday.
  1. RESPONSE: Yes, as above. We also encourage those who support the current CPPOM to make contact with SIRA or Council and participate in the conversation. As stated above, SIRA and WPCA are developing a survey of the Offshore Communities on the proposed Options for Precinct 1.
Here is a link to the Church Point Plan of Management on Council’s website Pittwater Council Website‐Church Point. Please refer in more depth to the plans and consultation process that has brought us to where we are now by looking at these documents. Happy reading and I would welcome the opportunity to respond to any queries.

Bill Gye

This document is available to download in PDF format HERE

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The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily the views of the Scotland Island Residents Association (SIRA), or the Western Pittwater Community Association (WPCA)

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