A safety risk has been identified with forklifts being used to unload catches from fishing vessels.
A safety risk has been identified with forklifts being used to unload catches from fishing vessels. Rachel Vercoe

New lease agreement may lock fishers out of harbour

A NEW lease agreement over Coffs Harbour's public wharf could potentially see recreational fishers locked out of wetting a line at the marina at certain times.

NSW Department of Industry has proposed a new lease for the Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Co-operative, which will expand its footprint over a wider area of the waterfront and impose new restrictions on public access to the wharf.

The Co-op allows commercial fishers land and market their fresh seafood products into Coffs Harbour.

Forklift trucks and other machinery is used to unload and resupply vessels and there are many truck movements to and from the area every day.

Consultation between SafeWork NSW, the Co-op and the NSW Department of Industry has identified this is a risk to public safety, saying public access to the waterfront should be restricted to protect both the public and the commercial fishers, who work on the wharves.

 

The marina.
Coffs Harbour's public wharf is a popular spot for fishing. Karen Snowden

The Co-op's General Manager, Andrew Mitchell has said the change in access is needed to ensure public safety - also noting the co-op will still be open to the public when it is safe to do so," Mr Mitchell said.

"The reason for the change in access is to ensure public safety.

"We are currently unable to sufficiently limit public access when there are forklift operations and the like, and this is a clear and obvious danger to the general public.

"It also does not comply with SafeWork NSW.

 

A map showing a change to the lease of the Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Coop.
A map showing a change to the lease of the Coffs Harbour Fishermen's Coop. Department of Industry

"We need to be able to comply with the law, and we want to prevent an accident from happening.

"In the current situation an accident is simply too likely to happen and we want to do whatever we can to ensure no-one gets hurt.

"Nonetheless public access will remain when it is safe to provide it.

"We will also be increasing access by offering behind the scenes tours so that the general public will be able to directly witness interesting unloads of seafood, but in a much safer manner than is currently possible.

"Our intention is to find a way to give these tours to Coffs Harbour locals free of charge."

Have your say on the proposed lease agreement here.