Council grants ferry extension
Gosford Council has resolved to approve Fast Ships Ltd's request for a one-year extension to complete infrastructure and provide a fast ferry service between "the Central Coast and Sydney".
Council has resolved to make it the final extension, with councillors split in the vote.
Fast Ships now has until June 27, 2009, to start the ferry service.
Cr Trevor Drake said he supported the idea of a Fast Ferry service to Sydney, and believed the community would too.
"I was not a (Council) member in 1996 when expression of interest went out," Cr Drake said.
"It's 10 years now, going into 11 years.
"It is clear that Fast Ships Limited has expended money.
"They've entered into an agreement, put up money, shown their credentials to a certain extent.
"It's incumbent on council to give them that 12 months.
"This is the last extension I'd agree to.
"It would be wonderful if a fast ferry commuter service could be established to go from Ettalong to Sydney.
"It is a service I think the Central Coast could use, but we should put them on quite clear notice that this is it."
Cr Terri Latella said her concerns were about the lack of vessel and a verifiable cost plan.
"My first major concern that that wharf and terminal actually gets a commuter fast ferry," Cr Latella said.
"Right now what I'm looking at is a proposal for a terminal and wharf.
"According to what has happened in the last year, none of the main issues have been met.
"I cannot support something that 12 months ago we were so committed of giving one last chance.
"To date I don't think there has been any verifiable plan on cost to commuter.
"Obviously to date (Fast Ships) don't have a vessel or birthing rights."
At the end of the previously agreed 12-month period, council were expected to resolve to open the possibility of a fast ferry between Ettalong and Sydney to tender, meaning other companies would be able to apply to provide the service.
Cr Malcolm Brooks said that although he had been a supporter of the proposed fast ferry, he too had reservations.
"I can understand the frustrations going on with the applicant in regard to getting financial backers and a vessel.
"My colleague Cr Drake said this is their last chance, I'm inclined to agree with those thoughts.
"If they can't do it in 12 months, we should forget about a fast ferry for another 20 years."
Cr Vicki Scott also spoke against the development, stating that Fast Ships were "clutching at straws".
Cr Scott said that Fast Ships stated that it had approached every avenue in the country for funding, yet it was still pursuing the project.
"While I acknowledge the importance of this business in this area, it's just not going to happen," Cr Scott said.
"We promised we'd give them one last 12 months, yet here we are debating the same thing again."
Cr Doyle stated that there was nothing fast about the Fast Ferry calling it a "long, drawn out proposal".
"I have been fortunate or unfortunate to be debating this thing since 1999," Cr Doyle said.
"Twelve months ago when this came back I made it clear how long this piece of string was, but I was fairly firm, very direct.
"I have taken the opportunity to discuss with directors what is possible and what is not.
"I wouldn't be so bloody-minded to stop this project going forward, I've supported for eight years.
"But I've had enough."
Cr Doyle said that without the word "final" in the resolution, council had "no hope" of securing his vote.
Cr Doyle asked for the 12-month period to be reduced to six months, but the change was not accepted by Cr Drake, who had moved the original motion.
"I am mindful that substantial amounts of shareholders and money are involved," Cr Doyle said.
"I don't wish to kill a dream off, but I would certainly like some consideration to drawing a line in the sand quite firmly."
Cr Bell said he would also support the inclusion of the word "final" as it was "definite" and would send a "clear message".
Cr Drake said that previous documents had specified a timetable for the project, and that he did not think the word "final" was necessary, but accepted the inclusion anyway.
Cr Drake said he believed in the "spirit of compromise".
"There is no cost to the community, only to the company, the community has got everything to gain," Cr Drake said.
Four councillors voted in favour of the extension, while three voted against.
Cr Chris Holstein was not in attendance at the meeting, and Cr Peter Hale did not vote due to his pecuniary interest as a director of the company.
Lyle Stone, 27 Feb 2007
Press release, 27 Feb 2007
Marion Newall, Gosford Council
Council agenda COR.16, 27 Feb 2007