PAPER shuffling between Sydney bureaucrats is putting lives at risk on Ballina's treacherous sand bar, according to local fishermen.
Confirmation from Crown Lands this week that a report on the state of the Richmond River bar had not been finalised, let alone tabled in NSW Parliament, suggested it would likely be many more months, if not years, before long-awaited dredging was approved.
Ballina Fishermen's Co-operative member Garry Joblin said the time had passed for compiling reports and carrying out "all these studies" when the bar was "as bad as it has ever been" and death or serious injury was inevitable.
He said it was clear that progress on getting approval for the dredging was "not going anywhere".
The last meeting the co-op had with Crown Lands was almost 12 months ago and it was time for the State Government to treat the need for dredging as urgent.
"It's only a matter of time before we have an accident or fatality on that bar and no family needs that," Mr Joblin said.
"Any more than above a metre of swell and it's too dangerous to go to work."
Speaking in his ministerial office earlier this month, North Coast MP Don Page said he would continue to advocate for the bar to be dredged and hoped it would happen soon.
But a spokesman for Crown Lands could only say a report on the most recent feasibility study would be finalised "shortly" and even then, further studies were needed before an application for dredging reached Macquarie St.
"A further survey of the bar has been commissioned to confirm the current state of the bar," the spokesman said.
"Once completed, a report of recommendations will be provided to the government".
If the project receives government approval, an environmental impact study will be carried out before dredging can begin.