‘They think they own the world’: Harbourside residents take on Sydney party boats

Formed in 2012, the group says it is a voice for the port and community members concerned about development, overcrowding, pollution and water safety. It is currently chaired by retired developer John Molyneux and its AGM is on Tuesday.

Friends of Sydney Harbor committee member David Morris, who lives in Cremorne Point, said it was a minority of boat operators who did the wrong thing. “We are not against them doing what they do in the port, we are against the inconvenience and disturbances that they cause,” he said.

We have enough space in the port to keep moving… I don’t want to sound like a fanatic, but I think that would be the most reasonable answer: keep moving.

Amanda Stabback, Cremorne Point resident

Morris said some port residents were frustrated to the point of tears as boats continually parked near their properties and played loud music. The newer ships had better sound systems, which made the problem worse.

“The world has gone crazy over Spotify and high technology,” Morris said. “How can you let this happen on the most beautiful waterway in the world? It’s really getting out of hand.”

The group secured a meeting with the government on Friday to discuss the new code of conduct. Critics say the Friends of Sydney Harbor and similar resident groups speak loudly but have few members.

“They have about two people on them when you investigate,” said Daniel Da Silva, president of the Commercial Boat Association and owner of the Any Boat rental agency.

“People need to remember that the residents who complain don’t own Sydney Harbour. Sydney Harbor is there for everyone to use.”

Lackey, the ship’s captain at Experience Sydney Harbour, also felt the number of whistleblowers was small. “It’s just some of these people on the ground who think they own the world that are causing the problems,” he said. “They’ll probably complain that their neighbors are having a loud party, too.”

Events in the port sometimes involve several party boats anchored together.

Morris admitted that Friends of Sydney Harbor was a boutique, but said, “No matter how many of us there are, and no matter how many of them there are, they have to obey the law.”

He said the group had formed a “loose partnership” with other resident groups, mayors and parliamentarians, and even with Taronga Zoo, which runs a luxury glamping program overnight. The zoo told the Herald he routinely called the water police when noise pollution affected his animals, but this was enough and he did not seek to voice his concerns further.

It’s just some of these people on the ground who think they own the world that are causing the problems. They will probably complain that their neighbors are also having a loud party.

Tim Lackey, Boat Captain at Experience Sydney Harbor

Morris also said the group had met with Dennis Wilson, the lawyer husband of New South Wales Governor Margaret Beazley. The couple live in Government House in the Royal Botanic Gardens and recently appeared on the cover of the daily telegraph over noise complaints his representatives allegedly made about events in the gardens and at the port.

Wilson told the Herald he met with the group after ship noise disrupted an awards ceremony at Government House in 2019. However, he “concluded that further discussion with them was totally inappropriate.” He said that he had gotten used to the noise and found that it was now “largely bearable”.

The group also approached Manly MP and state Environment Minister James Griffin and secured a meeting with the Environmental Protection Authority. Morris said the group had been invited to participate in a review of noise regulations next year.

The group also met Sydney MP Alex Greenwich. Earlier this month, Greenwich sent several written questions to Police Minister Paul Toole seeking information on the number of complaints about ship noise and whether the government saw a need for stricter regulation.

Party Boats In The Harbor Are A Time-Honoured Sydney Tradition.  This Photo Shows A Ship Passing Under The Bridge In November 2014.

Party boats in the harbor are a time-honoured Sydney tradition. This photo shows a ship passing under the bridge in November 2014.Credit:christopher pearce

Greenwich told the Herald party boats in the harbor were part of Sydney life and for the most part fine. “It’s just that some people take it too far.” He has yet to hear back from Toole.

Transport for NSW has been working on the new code of conduct for amplified music charter boats for over a year. A spokesman said the review was complete and the government was now “in the final stages of industry engagement” before publishing the new rules.

Lackey and Da Silva said early summer bookings were healthy after a series of years affected by wildfires, COVID-19 and La Niña rain, and New Year’s Eve bookings heralded a bumper season.

“Sydney is finally getting there with opening up again, and I would hate to see more rules and restrictions in place,” Lackey said. “Let people do their thing and enjoy life.”

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