ACT News

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Costs, environment fears for Jervis Bay handover

Jervis Bay residents fear their territory will be taken over by tourists and their native vegetation ruined if the ACT is successful in handing responsibility for the area back to NSW.

But four months after Chief Minister Katy Gallagher announced plans to cut ties with the community, locals and surrounding councils remain largely in the dark as to when, how or even if such a plan might work.

The Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community Council will not comment on the issue until solid plans are in place but a community elder has privately expressed concern over losing the services of the Australian Federal Police, who have been credited with stamping out violent and reckless behaviour in the area.

Jervis Bay Supermaket owners Bob and Nemia Noyes said a number of their customers were worried about the possible costs of having to change their drivers' licence and car registrations over to NSW.

Their store was also likely to experience a significant loss of income from being forced to change to NSW liquor licences.

''The ACT laws allow us to open on Christmas Day and during Easter and on those dates, we're the only shop in NSW that's open,'' Mr Noyes said.


''They're two of our biggest trading days for the year. People come from Sussex and even further to stock up on supplies.''

Meanwhile, there is a simmering fear that a NSW authority might ruin the territory's pristine natural environment with increased tourism ventures.

And early indicators from the nearby Shoalhaven City Council suggest those fears may be justified.

The Shoalhaven council already provides some services - including garbage and some road maintenance - to the Jervis Bay community but local mayor Paul Green said having the opportunity to increase tourism to the area would be an obvious boon for the council.

''Hyams Beach does have that really exclusive feel,'' he said.

''It's got some of the whitest sands in the world, whales play in those waters and it's a fairly tranquil spot.

''A lot of holidaymakers from Canberra and Sydney use it as their de-stressing point and there is a high value in that.

''Bringing more people to the area generally means more services, buildings, bed and breakfasts and so on, and we would have to juggle that foot traffic to ensure the area was kept pristine.

''But I am confident we would be nowhere near the threshold we could possibly reach before that needed to take place.''

Mr Green added that taking on such responsibilities would also have its downfalls, particularly the extra costs associated with providing increased services.

He said the sewerage and water management systems would have to be upgraded to meet council standards and this was a big cost to the community.

''Local governments across NSW have got a $14 million backlog in asset maintenance and those issues would not change if we inherited this wonderful part of the ACT,'' he said.

''We have high water sewage standards because of the pristine waterways in our area and we hold those trophies proudly.

''But if we need to upgrade those sewer or waterways, who will pay for it? The residents across the Shoalhaven have already had to pay for upgrades in their own villages and towns.''