Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler stuck until Hawkesbury River sandbank dredged

The last tour Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler owner Ian Burns was able to run was in January, due to a sandbank in the Hawkesbury River which is stopping the vessel from mooring and taking passengers from Windsor Public Wharf.

Mr Burns has been appealing to the State Government to dredge the river and the sandbank - which was the result of the February flood - for months, to no avail.

The office of Member for Hawkesbury Robyn Preston told the Gazette Ms Preston couldn't provide a timeline for the dredging because they were awaiting information about the 2020/21 budget.

Hawkesbury City Council said the onus is on Transport for NSW to dredge the river.

"We have raised the issue of the current sandbank with the relevant State Government bodies. Dredging is a priority for Council right now due to the impact on local businesses such as the Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler," said General Manager Peter Conroy.

"Council understands that the trading of owner Ian Burns' Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler, as with many businesses in the Hawkesbury, has been seriously affected by bushfires, flood and the COVID-19 pandemic. The construction of Windsor Bridge has also meant Mr Burns could not use the wharf."

A Transport for NSW spokesperson said: "While the Upper Hawkesbury has not been identified as a priority location under the NSW Government's Coastal Dredging Strategy, Hawkesbury City Council is eligible to apply for matching funding through Rescuing Our Waterways to carry out dredging."

The Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler's Mr Burns said Council had been "very supportive" of his plight, and it was up to Ms Preston and the State Government to undertake the works.

"Council are at the mercy of RMS [Transport for NSW] - their hands are tied," Mr Burns said.

"In the meantime, we're stuck at Lower Portland and we can't return until that sand is removed. Our mooring is buried under five metres of sand and we can't even get a boat to Windsor Wharf.

"We just want to go back to work. It's been a nightmare and we seem to fall between the cracks of government grants and any available assistance packages."

Windsor Business Group vice president Gae Kelly called on the Hawkesbury community to put pressure on the State Government to commit to a timeline for dredging.

"The State Government is currently doing costings yet in the meantime the Hawkesbury Paddlewheeler cannot get safely back to Windsor, and their mooring needs to be found from under tonnes of sand before they can. How long can it possibly take?" she said.