19 November 2022

NCA to revisit Central Basin as lake users fear seaplanes will sink their businesses

| James Coleman
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Seaplane landing

Sydney Seaplanes landing on Lake Burley Griffin during a trial run in December 2020. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The National Capital Authority (NCA) may have signed off on seaplanes using the westernmost side of Lake Burley Griffin as a runway but it’s hardly a done deal after meeting with more than 70 lake user groups, including the Canberra Yacht Club (CYC).

The CYC was founded in 1959 on the Yarralumla shoreline, several years before the lake was even filled. General manager Steve Hart said CYC has been “very supportive” of local seaplane operations as another attraction for Canberra, but “not where it puts us out of business”.

“This is how the proposal has been written and announced – it’s in a place we know puts us out of operation immediately,” he said.

READ ALSO Seaplanes are go for Lake Burley Griffin

Five years worth of talks between the NCA and Sydney Seaplanes bore fruit earlier last week with a plan for four flights a day to and from the area of lake between the Acton and Black Mountain peninsulas, beginning during the first half of 2023. Passengers will disembark at a new pontoon near the National Museum of Australia.

During a series of workshops with the NCA on Wednesday (16 November), regular users of the lake – from dragon boaters and canoeists to triathletes and sailing clubs – pleaded with the NCA to move the operation into the Central Basin.

Steve says up to 70 per cent of CYC’s revenue comes through their sailing school. From 9 am to 5 pm, five days a week during school holidays, instructors take to the West Basin in boats to teach up to 70 children the basics of sailing.

boats on Lake Burley Griffin

Sailboats from the Canberra Yacht Club in the West Basin. Photo: Canberra Yacht Club, Facebook.

Sailboat racing events are held each Wednesday and Sunday for members. Then there are the regular social-inclusion programs, including ‘Sailability’ for people with a disability and ‘Buoyed Up’ for disadvantaged youth.

“We have a lot going on in that bit of water and not all of those programs would be affected, but if we lose the sailing school, we lose all of those subsidised programs we’ve worked so hard to build up,” Steve said.

“The seaplanes are a lovely idea, but we’re pushing really hard for it to take place in the Central Basin.”

READ ALSO WorkSafe ACT, police, coroner investigate ‘distressing’ alleged murder of hospital patient

The NCA ruled out the Central Basin for take-offs and landings due to its place in the ‘Parliament House Vista’, based on a heritage and environment assessment from 2016. At the time, Singapore Airlines was investigating flights to Canberra and contacted South Coast Seaplanes about possible connecting flights to Moruya.

NCA chief executive officer Sally Barnes said NCA initially deemed it “not a good idea” based on advice they received from the Department of Infrastructure.

“They didn’t think it was very safe to land seaplanes between the two bridges because motorists might be distracted by it.”

During the workshops, Ms Barnes committed to retest this.

“I’ll go back, look at what was done, what the conclusions were, and what they were based on.”

Woman speaking to media

NCA chief executive Sally Barnes has committed to reassessing Central Basin as a ‘runway’. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

The seaplane owners will also spend the first half of December meeting with each of the lake-user groups and finding out more about their operations. The results will be presented to the NCA by 14 December.

Ms Barnes said communication between NCA and the lake-user groups had suffered over COVID, but promised better going forward.

“For a while, we didn’t really have much to say – and we weren’t sure the operators would even stay in business – but there was a bit of a gap in our communication.”

She said the meeting may have started with pent-up frustrations, but by the time everyone left the room, “we were much more positive about how we could work together, as well as realising the benefits that having something new on the lake brings and the interest it creates for the city”.

“As well as realising the benefits that having something new on the lake brings and the interest it creates for the city.”

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Why not have the seaplanes land on the East Basin and taxi into Kingston Foreshores? The lake ferry can be scheduled to meet the seaplane and take passengers on to other jetties around LBG.

Because it is too shallow in East Basin and there are logs. Central basin is heritage protected.

The Canberra Yacht Club is owned by the Southern Cross Club. The SCC has always been promoted as a club for Catholics and their friends. With all of its holdings the club has expanded over the years to become a major conglomerate in Canberra. The club has amassed its fortune by taking over gambling and entertainment venues around the city. It is undoubtedly one the largest and most successful entertainment group in this town (Yes I know, alongside the Labor Club). This wealth has mainly been accumulated through its members’ contributions, tax breaks and gambling.

I understand the seaplane proposal will operate out the front of the museum at its existing jetty. This includes upgrading the jetty for operations to get started. I also understand the museum is currently negotiating with the seaplane owners to develop tourism opportunities. These opportunities will benefit tourists, the museum and all Canberrans. Media reporting is also indicating coastal towns are wanting to get in on the act and are negotiating with the NCA to develop future opportunities which will enhance tourism between the ACT and the coast. It is a win-win opportunity for all!

If the Canberra Yacht Club and its members can’t survive because of a few seaplanes landing and taking off from a small area in this vast expanse of water out the front of the museum, a couple of times a day, well heaven help us!

Go for it Sally!!

I realise you like claiming things are win-win by ignoring all the people and groups who lose but surely no one is this blind.

We are talking about allowing a private business to restrict access on the lake to public users for their profit.

All for a miniscule benefit, the idea that a few tourists in the back of a seaplane will be a boon for tourism and economic activity is laughable.

All because you hate the various community clubs in Canberra.

Disinformation1:43 pm 23 Nov 22

It’s so cool when a blowhard gets their facts completely wrong. The Southern Cross Club owns the building and runs the restaurant called the “Southern Cross Yacht Club”. The Canberra Yacht club operates out of the building and has clubrooms there. The Club sold the building to the SCC and leases part of it back. It’s been like this for many years.
They’re two totally separate organisations. So yeah, maybe paying some attention to the name and some open public history might have saved that bit of fake news.

SCC and CYC are not two totally separate organisations! The SCC has significant investments and interest in the financial operations of the CYC and their various operations around the city!! Yeh I know who the blowhard is!

I’m just getting started Disinformation! Just wind me up!!

Disinformation8:52 pm 24 Nov 22

Dude, get some steam up. And hey, why don’t you produce some proof of this. I mean, why not back up your assertions with some actual evidence?

Government legislation requires all clubs to release annual reports into their finances. All ACT Clubs in the ACT publish annual reports with their financial activities available on their websites. The Southern Cross Club has six clubs in the ACT. This includes the Canberra Southern Cross Yacht Club (CSCCYC) which is a significant part of its operations. The SC contributed $20 million to its Yacht Club operations in the 21/22 financial year. The CSCC also has a Yacht Club Masterplan Committee. If readers are interested, I would highly recommend informing themselves on just how much equity clubs have in the ACT. On top of this equity a significant component of their revenues comes from government (taxpayers), gambling and profits. Their community contributions pale in comparison to their wealth and profits. Readers may also be interested in the lack of female representation these clubs have on their boards. The CSCC and the NCGC are two clubs who lack this representation. Gender inequality remains in the spotlight and is a chronic blot in all aspects of society, including sport. Canberra clubs should be called out. There are many women of all ages who play sport at Canberra Clubs. Clubs receive significant taxpayers money and should be urged – internally and externally – to do more to end the gender inequality. The ACT government, in its ACT Women’s Plan 2016-26 claims that it is committed to removing barriers to enable more women and girls to take up more leadership roles, in all aspects of society including sports. The ACT government can do more, and it must, to ensure these clubs are pulling their weight when it comes to female representation in all aspects of their activities.

West Basin has an area of 23km. West Basin overlooks Black Mountain, the old Royal Canberra Hospital, ANU, Government House and Blundell’s Cottage. The lake in its entirety belongs to all Canberrans. There are a variety of users on West Basin including sailing groups, sailboarders, swimmers and community groups. My family use this part of the lake for various recreation activities in the summer months. All these groups co-exist happily. The yacht club is part of West Basin. The CYC has a variety of funding methods including those from government (taxpayers), gambling, entertainment and its sailing school. The Club’s sailing school operates mainly for a prominent Canberra private school. My daughter a number of years ago did sailing instruction at the club. The club also maintains a shed for the school on the site. We now have the club claiming exclusive rights over West Basin. There are a number of opportunities for businesses to open up operations including seaplanes on the lake. Seaplane operations have been functioning favourably on lakes throughout Australia, particularly in Sydney’s Rose Bay. I hope the NCA stands firm and the latest NIMBY attempts by the CYC to push the seaplane operations “anywhere but here” fails!

You could land them in lake Tuggeranong, but when the tram comes it’ll take longer to tram back to the city than it took to fly to Canberra.

If the seaplane proposal is sunk, it will show Canberra has a stronge community spirit, determined to protect a much loved community lake from appropriation by business bullies.

Like CYC is doing?

Scott Anthony9:35 pm 20 Nov 22

If only Canberra had some sort of ‘runway’ that aircraft could use to take off and land on so the lake could be used by boats and watercraft….!!! This Labor mob love to govern for the ultra rich minority at the expense of the majority of Canberrans….!! Vote wisely or be the peasant they see you to be…!!

If this proposal fails because of a club, it will show Canberra up to be a lightweight destination for business. Stay strong Sally, don’t give in to these bullies!

Here we go again!! The Yacht Club thinking they have exclusive rights to the lake. Well I hope the NCA sticks to its guns! Methinks Canberra’s clubs have been spongeing off ACT taxpayers for too long. We are a good lot us taxpayers!! We are now paying to wean them off gambling revenue. All those millions of dollars in revenue they have raked in over the years, all that misery and addiction which has impacted so many Canberra families. Oh and I do know which school that 70% of CYC revenue goes to through its sailing school!

Oh if it isn’t Jack D hating on the clubs sector again.

If you think thus shows the Yacht club think they have exclusive access to the lake what exactly do you think allowing a private seaplane business to operate a lake landing strip limiting other public uses would be?

ChrisinTurner4:02 pm 20 Nov 22

The seaplanes can land at the airport. They will be stored there overnight. Landing on the lake is only a gimmick for the elite.

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