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

Dangerous Ballina bar a 'massive problem' for marina plan

BALLINA'S Marina masterplan could mean big things for the town, but some feel it could be all for nothing if the bar crossing isn't made safer.

Ballina Fishing Co-Op chief executive Phil Hilliard said while the NSW Government suspended plans to dredge the channel into the Richmond River last December, he felt the dangers were were a "massive problem".

"The fishing industry is currently going through a major reform which has stymied our industry," Mr Hilliard said.

"The only way we (bounce back) is to invite people into Ballina to do business.

"We've got fishermen (who) won't come in because they believe our bar is dangerous."

The co-op has been asked to spend money on infrastructure under the marina masterplan, but Mr Hilliard said they wouldn't commit to this unless there was a solution in sight for safety concerns at the bar.

The marina has been flagged a potential $170 million project.

It would create jobs and bolster the maritime and boating industry in Ballina.

Port of Ballina Taskforce member and environmental engineer James Foster said he'd suggested to the RMS a mobile app to help boaties understand changing conditions on bar crossings would be "a useful tool".

"Where people come unstuck is where they're not familiar with the bar," he said.

"I suggested to Maritime that a bar app would be a really useful tool (but) I haven't had any positive response from that idea."

He said a man whose yacht sank off the north wall last Thursday was trying to cross the bar at the "most dangerous time" - a low runout tide.

The long-time recreational sailor said the masterplan's two options held great promise.

"Ballina was founded on boat building and it's sort of gone to the wayside but we've got an opportunity to really create some jobs and generate some income," he said.

"Hopefully over the next 12 months we're going to see (the State Government) putting their hand in their pocket and delivering on some of those promises."

Ballina Shire mayor David Wright hoped their plans for the marina would soon spark action on the bar.

"If the marinas are going to go ahead ... the depth of the bar is going to have to be taken into account," Cr Wright said.

Ballina Shire Council won't apply for a share of NSW's Rescuing Our Waterways funding - where councils and the state share essential dredging costs - as the bar is a state responsibility, although the council is funding dredging works for North Creek. The NSW Department of Industry was approached for comment.