The Ballina Bar has been described as a dangerous bar with some calling for it to be dredged.
The Ballina Bar has been described as a dangerous bar with some calling for it to be dredged. Marc Stapelberg

Ballina bar depth is 'adequate' for boating: Government

THE State Government hasn't ruled out dredging the Ballina bar in the future as hype around the marina masterplan grows.

A NSW Department of Industry - Lands and Water spokeswoman said the state had spent a total of $3 million in dredging the Richmond River, including the Ballina Boat Harbour and Fishery Creek.

She said recent surveys of the river's bed level had "consistently shown sufficient water depths for boating access".

These surveys were generally conducted twice a year, she said.

"Since completion in 2012 of a feasibility study into dredging for the Ballina bar, the department has been monitoring the condition of the Richmond River entrance through periodic bed level surveys," she said.

"The most recent survey was completed in June 2017 and showed adequate water depths of over four metres at low tide."

She said future dredging would be considered "as required".

While some have supported the idea of a sand bypass, the spokeswoman said this would be "very expensive" and might not prevent the future build-up of sand at the river entrance.

Ballina mayor David Wright said one idea floated was a plan to pump sand from the bar and deposit it north of the river to rejuvenate Lighthouse and Shelley Beaches and the stretch toward Lennox Head.

Ballina Fishing Co-Op chief executive Phil Hilliard said he believed this would be a great option with a minimal environmental impact.

"That was a great innovation because there was no on-land operation," he said.

"They would just have a pipe underwater and pump the sand into the waves which would push the sand onto shore."

Mr Hilliard believes dredging the bar was an important step toward making the $170 million Ballina marina masterplan viable.

He said industry leaders were "looking to try to create a destination" around the revamped marina, but feared the dangerous channel could hinder economic growth in the town.

The marina reconstruction is expected to garner $4.5 million in additional salaries after construction.

The Department of Industry spokeswoman said the cost of this program would be prohibitive.

While Ballina Shire Council does not control the bar's maintenance - and were not eligible for state funding announced this week where the NSW Government contributes up to 50% of costs for essential dredging - she said they could apply for the funding for other projects.

"Ballina Shire Council is encouraged to apply for co-funding for other dredging projects in the region through the Rescuing Our Waterways program," she said.