More marina berths as boat sales soar I Australian Rural & Regional News

Rodney Stevens, Clarence Valley Independent

Booming boat sales and over 90% occupancy have Yamba Marina looking to expand its berths from 95 to 145, furthering the reputation of the Clarence River as a premier boating destination .

Yamba Marina owners Peter Sutton and Kay Cottee said they are considering their biggest expansion since taking over the marina.

“We’ve had the marina since 2004, a guy called Kevin Harris built it, who also started the Blue Dolphin Caravan Park and he sold it to the Mitchell family,” Mr Sutton said.

“Kevin developed the marina from scratch and when my wife Kay Cottee and I built a big boat, we launched it at the marina in 2003.

“I spoke to Kevin Harris and asked him what his plans were, and he said I would eventually sell… I went to his house, we chatted for a bit and within an hour and a half we had a deal to buy the marina.

In November 1987, Kay Cottee embarked on a 189-day journey that saw her become the first woman to sail around the world, solo, non-stop and unassisted.

Mr Sutton said when they took over the marina, which spans 6.5 hectares of leased public land, was operating at around 50 per cent capacity, a level which is now over 90 per cent.

“We moved our boat building business to one of the sheds and took over management of the marina,” he said.

For the past 18 years, Yamba Marina has given free berths to Iluka Yamba Marine Rescue for its two vessels.

With marina berths at a premium as many in Australia are owned by yacht clubs, Mr Sutton said there was a concerted effort by owners to operate with minimal environmental impact as very few new facilities are opening .

“We have a DA, we can fit another 50 berths which can bring it to around 145 berths, it’s approved, the next thing we need to get is a building certificate,” he said.

“What has changed over the years we have been there is that the boats are now much bigger, there are more catamarans and so you have to set up your marina differently.

“We will potentially start installing the new berths next year as we have over 90% capacity.”

Last year, Mr Sutton said he hired ENV Environmental Services to carry out an audit of the marina’s operations.

“It involved water samples, soil samples, soil samples from the marina that went through all sorts of environmental tests to make sure that what we were doing on the site left the site in the same condition, otherwise better than when we took it over,” he said.

“This environmental study has given us an excellent bill of health for the way we operate the marina.”

With boat sales booming, population growing and the nautical asset that is the Clarence River, Sutton said the increase in berths would be at the current marina site.

To improve the marina precinct, Mr Sutton said low-level, low-density tourist accommodation could be built on the site in the future, without over-developing the area.

“We had proposals from people (developers) that we had to reject for tourist accommodation due to the scale of what they were offering,” he said.

“Yamba has a great reputation as a transit point, a stopover for boats going up and down the coast, so we get a lot of passing boats and when they arrive they buy fuel and spend money locally.

“We get so many inquiries because boat sales are up over 40% in Australia, both new and used boats.

“It was largely a function of Covid, because when Covid hit and people couldn’t go abroad, they said what were we going to do for our holidays, and they said we would buy a boat.

“Suddenly boat sales have taken off, so you have increased demand, but no new places to put the boats, so I think that’s something the government needs to look at, from a tourism point of view.

“Usually once a year we get 15 or 20 Riveria from the Gold Coast and they do the river for a week, they do the seven pubs, they do the Jacaranda festival and the council, to their credit, has built new docks along the river so they can disembark at Maclean and Ulmarra, to experience the valley without obstructing the roads.

“We see it (the Clarence River) as a tremendous tourism opportunity for council and government to use the river for water cruising.”

This article appeared in the Clarence Valley IndependentSeptember 28, 2022.

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