For Stockton’s fishers and boaters, the new Stockton Boat Harbour is a sight for sore eyes … and legs.
Russell Tait, a recreational fisher who moors his boat at the marina, said he can now get on and off his vessel safely for the first time in decades.
Before a $4.3 million upgrade funded by the state government, Mr Tait used to clamber along a system of planks and ladders to access his boat at low tide.
“That’s why I’ve nearly got no shins, I lost them to oysters on the way down,” he said. “I can step straight over the edge now.”
Boat owner Alex Delmoni said commercial and recreational boaters have been waiting 15 years for repairs to the public facility.
“Every time we’d go to them to say we’re going to fix this or rebuild we’d get told we can’t do anything there, they’re going to do something about it and that was ongoing for 15 years,” he said.
“There were old, rusted poles everywhere in there. If you fell in the water, my fear was that I would end up impaled.”
The Baird government announced an upgrade to the harbour in 2016, after Roads and Maritime Services reversed a decision to close the harbour and also ditched a plan to find a developer to fix it because the project was too financially unattractive.
The new marina opened on Friday, February 1.
It features 26 berths with power outlets and wash down hoses, a lockable gate, a two-boat entrance and a refurbished sea wall.
Mr Delmoni and members of the Stockton Prawners Club were full of praise for the upgrade while inspecting it with state member for Newcastle Tim Crakanthorp on Wednesday.
“It’s pretty much addressed every problem we had before,” Mr Delmoni said.
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald welcomed the change.
“I thank the NSW Liberal Government for funding this important piece of infrastructure,” Mr MacDonald said.
“This continues substantial investment in the Newcastle region which will improve safety and access for the recreational and commercial boating community.”
MP Tim Crakanthorp said it was the ideal outcome for the community.
“They [RMS] really wanted to privatise it but due to a lot of pressure from the local community we managed to stop that.
“I want to pay tribute to the RMS because they have done a great job,” he said.
Boat owners using the facility now have to register their vessels with RMS and pay to use the berths.
Mr Tait said the extra money was worth it.
“I’ll pay fees for this,” he said.