In my contribution to the discussion of the petition, I also thank the community members of Myall Lakes for banding together and presenting this petition to the New South Wales Parliament. The petition concerns a matter that is very important to that community. I know how difficult it is to get 10,000 signatures. The member for Myall Lakes has done that and has brought the petition to the Parliament. I concur with the remarks made by the member for Upper Hunter—that the community ought to be congratulated.
The member for Upper Hunter is quite right: Our waterways are so incredibly special and so beautiful. However, if they are not navigable, they are pretty useless. It is the case that the electorate of Swansea has a lake that also becomes unnavigable. Like the member for the Upper Hunter and his community, I too want our waterways to be navigable at all times. As the member for Upper Hunter said, there are lots of opportunities associated with our waterways, such as business opportunities, entertainment opportunities and any number of other opportunities, that really do bring economic prosperity to the local community. However, if our waterways are not navigable, we end up in a situation where we miss out on opportunities.
I will provide an example to the House. Three large yachting races have been cancelled in Lake Macquarie as a result of vessels not having the confidence of being able to get in and out of the lake, which has been shoaled up. The good news is that more than a year ago the Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, the Hon. Taylor Martin who is a member of the other place, announced a $6.2 million dredging program as a stimulus funding measure. Obviously it is a bit late since it is more than a year since the announcement; however, I was very pleased to hear that the Swansea Channel was the number one priority when the announcement was made. I look forward to that program starting sometime soon. I suggest to the member for Myall Lakes that he also should be trying to seek some of that funding for the waterways of his electorate that are in a very similar situation to the shoaling of the Swansea Channel in my electorate.
It is the State's responsibility to ensure that our channels are navigable. I have read about the problem and it is therefore the State's responsibility to get this done. Many years ago we owned dredgers in this State, but unfortunately we do not own them any longer and we rely on contractors to do the work. I have been told by NSW Maritime that, unfortunately, dredgers are difficult to get at the moment. Perhaps that is just a product of the world in which we live, I am not sure, but we need an ongoing maintenance program along the eastern seaboard. Instead of us responding all the time to a problem, we need to become proactive in this space. We should have an ongoing maintenance program of all of the waterways that are not navigable as a result of shoaling.
It is pretty simple. It is not rocket science at all. We have $6.2 million sitting in a bank account somewhere—who would know?—yet that money has not been distributed in any way to fix any of the problems. In my view, it really is for the Government to put together an ongoing long-term dredging maintenance program for the State of New South Wales so that communities, such as Myall Lakes, Swansea and Lake Macquarie, do not have to keep gathering signatures for petitions to seek funding from the Government to ensure that their channels are navigable. The money is there.
I absolutely agree with members on the other side of the House. The Government should just get in and do it. We need to have our waterways navigable. We are very proud of our water communities and we are proud of our waterways, but we want to make sure that they are safe, navigable and being used. At the moment we do not have those three things, which really is quite sad. I very much support the petition. I very much thank the Myall Lakes community and their representative.