Op Ed: Sydney’s Harbour jewel needs to shine for us again

There are moments when Sydney is so beautiful it’s irresistible. You have to stop what you’re doing, put down your phone and just take it all in.

Riding across Sydney Harbour on the Manly Ferry is one of those moments. When you’re sailing out towards Sydney Heads, past the hidden beaches and sandstone cliffs, with the sun dancing off the water and the wind blowing through your hair, you feel the beauty of this city all over again.

Sydney Harbour is our sales pitch to the world. It’s one of Australia’s truly special places. People rightly expect us to maintain it at the highest 
possible standard.

Sadly, that’s not how Sydney Harbour has been treated over the past decade. Chronic underfunding and government neglect has left iconic sites along the water in a state of disrepair.

At the World Heritage listed Cockatoo Island, sea walls holding the island together are cracked down the middle. Pilons that are propping up wharves have eroded down to almost nothing. And buildings that were once open to the public are now closed due to safety concerns.  

For more than twenty years, the Sydney Harbour Federation Trust has been responsible for maintaining Commonwealth properties along the water, from North Head at Manly down to Snapper Island near the Parramatta River.

The Trust was established to restore the Harbour’s heritage, while keeping it open and accessible to the public. This is a crucial job. But clearly, it hasn't been given the resources it needs to achieve this mission in recent years.

That is why our government is stepping in to invest an extra $45 million in this week’s budget to address the critical backlog of repair work around the harbour.

This money will go to fixing critical infrastructure, like those sea walls and deteriorating wharves. It will address immediate safety risks, like falling rocks along cliff faces. It will repair buildings that desperately need it, allowing them to reopen to the public. And it will support the ongoing heritage management of the harbour.  

It’s in everyone’s interest to keep Sydney Harbour looking its finest. It’s good for the environment, good for the people of this city, and it’s good for the pull of global tourism. These sites attract almost two million visitors every year. We need to show our best face to these people.

Sydney Harbour is also one of the most important sites in our nation’s history and heritage.

It’s where countless generations of First Nations people have lived, caring for their land and sea country. It’s where colonial Australia began in 1788. It’s where waves of migrant Australians have disembarked to start their new life. And it’s where generations of military personnel have stood on duty, in bases dotted along the harbour.

This new funding will help preserve every chapter of that history.

In the end, Australians want to protect more of what’s precious, restore more of what’s damaged, and manage nature better for our kids and grandkids.

And that means taking care of Sydney Harbour, as the shining jewel in the heart of our city.

Published in the Daily Telegraph