Again, I come to the Chamber to talk about the Swansea Channel. The Swansea Channel is the only entry point from the ocean into Lake Macquarie, which is the largest saltwater lake in the Southern Hemisphere. However, recurrent silting has reduced the depth of the channel, making it difficult for boaties to safely travel through this iconic body of water. Boaties from across the State have told me that they have been forced to bypass the lake because of the silting. Instead, they visit locations such as Newcastle Harbour, Port Stephens and the Hawkesbury River. Silting in the Swansea Channel has also drawn attention from local and out-of-area yacht clubs, including the Royal Prince Alfred Yacht Club.
Despite Lake Macquarie being one of their preferred sailing destinations, the uncertainty of safe passage and the stories of groundings and yachts requiring assistance from Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie discourage them from sailing from Sydney. This year Marine Rescue Lake Macquarie has already surpassed the total number of vessel assists it completed for 2021. Boats not being able to safely pass through the channel has impacted many of the region's renowned sailing and boating events. Royal Motor Yacht Club Toronto Vice Commodore Melvyn Steiner shared with me that the club's annual Heaven Can Wait regatta was held on 5 and 6 February to primarily raise funds for the Hunter branch of Cancer Council NSW. Although many locals participated in the event, there was a lack of out-of-area participants because they were unable to access the lake and safely navigate the course. In addition, boaties from Wangi and Lake Macquarie yacht clubs have also informed me that they will not be able to participate in Sail Port Stephens on 4 April because they cannot exit the lake.
The regatta and other boating events have the potential to raise funds for important community organisations as well as to stimulate the region's economy. However, the recurring silting is hindering the success of these events and denying local businesses the opportunity to benefit from this economic activity. During my time as member for Swansea I have consistently urged the New South Wales Government to fund a permanent dredging solution for the Swansea Channel. I have made budget submissions to the New South Wales Government requesting a large-scale dredging campaign, along with an annual monitoring and dredging program to enable yachts and other vessels to safely navigate the channel. I have received numerous letters of support from across the State. The New South Wales Government has ignored these pleas.
In July 2021 Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter, Taylor Martin, MLC, announced that the Swansea Channel would be the first New South Wales waterway to benefit from a $6.2 million dredging program. This program was announced as stimulus funding. The Swansea community is yet to see a cent spent from this stimulus program, despite being recognised as a priority by Transport for NSW in itsNSW Maritime Infrastructure Plan 2019-2024, and identified as a key investment location under the NSW Coastal Dredging Strategy 2019-2024. Furthermore, the busy summer period has almost ended and the Government has still not awarded a dredging contract. The last contract was awarded in 2019 to Sandpiper Dredging, a Queensland-based company. Due to tragic circumstances, the company has been unable to complete its contract.
Transport for NSW has stated that planning and investigation works are currently underway with the tender process, with dredging works expected to take place early this year. This is simply too little action too late by the Government. As each day passes the situation in the channel gets worse. That is why a permanent dredging solution is needed to combat the recurrent silting. With a new transport Minister the Government has an opportunity to correct the errors of the past and finally deliver a permanent dredging solution for the Swansea Channel. I call on the Government to urgently commence its promised $6.2 million dredging program and to deliver a permanent dredging solution. The former transport Minister, Mr Stokes, is in the Chamber tonight. I know that he was doing work in that regard and I appreciate and applaud that. I hope that we can see that effort from the new transport Minister.