By LEONIE BRANN
A $251,566 Federal Government grant to rejuvenate the Tweed Heads slipway will help breathe new life into an industry worth more than $35 million annually to the Tweed economy.
The grant, from the Sustainable Regions Program, will add to money given toward the $367,000 slipway revamp by the NSW Government, the Tweed Shire Council and the Tweed Marine Operators' group, that represents all local people who work in the marine industry.
A development application for the refurbishment is still to be considered by Tweed Shire Council, but one of the project's main proponents, Tom Senti from the Tweed Economic Development Corporation (TEDC), said yesterday, once approved the project should begin straight away and be completed by the end of June.
Mr Senti said the funding was good news for the Tweed's marine industry which directly employs more than 165 people and has indirect economic benefits of employing twice that number and creating double the economic wealth.
"There has been a whole-of-government approach to this project, and it must not be forgotten that the marine operators have also dug into their own pockets to make it a success," Mr Senti said.
The NSW Department of Lands, owners of the crown land site, had contributed $60,000 to the project; Tweed Shire Council $40,000, and Tweed Shire Marine Operators had contributed $38,000.
Mr Senti said the future economic impacts of a revitalised slipway were limitless, as more people and more marine-based industry move to the Tweed and take advantage of the local boating lifestyle on the Tweed River and beyond the bar.
Michelle Day, secretary of the Tweed River Charter Operators Association, who owns Boyds Bay Houseboat Holidays, said this will mean great savings for local marine-based businesses who will no longer need to take their boats to the slipway at Southport for inspections, and will create more jobs in the industry.
She said houseboats, and some charter boats were not ocean going vessels, so some have still been using the Tweed slipway for boat inspections, at their own risk.
"This is great news for the local marine industry, and has been a long time coming," Mrs Day said.
She said the local industry has been working closely with TEDC on the project for more than two years.
Mr Senti said the project will help link the Tweed with the Gold Coast's burgeoning boating industry and will complement other developments like the new commercial boating facilities at the southern boat harbour.