OUTSPOKEN federal senator Barnaby Joyce could be invited to the Manning area to address a public meeting on the Harrington southern seawall issue.
Harrington Community Action Group has secured the support of fellow Nationals senator, John Williams, in its fight to bring a fresh focus on the need for a southern wall to improve the Manning River's northern estuary.
Senator Williams wants in turn to enlist the help of Senator Joyce, the Nationals' leader in the senate and shadow minister for regional development, local government and water.
Senator Williams, during a recent visit to Harrington declared: "It's a pity this (wall) wasn't done years ago. It should have been done in the big budget years of the Howard era when we had the money.
"Now money is tight but we'll have to squeeze it from somewhere."
Senator Williams spent three days in the Manning and Hastings area, at the invitation of Nationals' candidate for the seat of Lyne, David Gillespie.
Included on his itinerary was a Manning River cruise with a Taree businessmen's group, talks with Greater Taree City mayor Paul Hogan, and discussions on Pilot Hill with Harrington Community Action Group.
The action group has been pressing for a renewal of studies into construction of a southern seawall ever since the group's formation several years ago.
Late last year (MRT MidWeek Edition Wednesday December 12) it pleaded with the Manning Economic Development Partnership Board to "look at the big picture" and take up a more pro-active role in shoring up the river's northern entrance.
The group wants the development board to actively campaign for construction of a southern breakwater, promised by governments over the past 100 years, but never delivered.
"We believe this single issue is the biggest the Manning needs to tackle in order to secure the economic prosperity of the entire valley," action group secretary Joan Hall said.
In recent years her group has presented historical information and study results to a number of high ranking politicians.
The visit by Senator Williams was an ideal opportunity to enlist the support of another politician.
He immediately threw his support behind the idea, and called for other groups and the wider community to support the Harrington action group.
Senator Williams said he would like to see a public meeting in the first quarter of this year, with Barnaby Joyce as special guest, which would result in an updated study into the Harrington estuary's hydrology.
It was pointed out to Senator Williams that the Manning River's northern entrance has moved about a kilometre to the south in the past 12 months and the former deep channel along the northern breakwall is again likely to be covered in shifting sand, as it was about 15 years ago.
"We need to have an expert say to us 'Yes, I believe a southern wall will work here' and 'this would be the result for the economy of the Manning'," he told the Times after his visit.
"We need maybe $100,000 to get an expert opinion. There's no point building a southern wall if we're not going to get a result.
"We need to work with Stephen Bromhead (member for Myall Lakes) and Leslie Williams (Port Macquarie).
"I'm sure if we can get the state and federal governments together, we can get an investigation done and see if we can build it.
"A study would also have to include what effect another breakwall at Harrington would have on the southern estuary of the Manning River (at Farquhar Inlet)."
Senator Williams described the Manning as very much an under-utilised resource.
"Where are the houseboats?" he asked after his luncheon cruise. "Where are the commercial vessels?
"I have some ideas of how the river's use could be improved, and they may be crazy ideas, but we need to look at all the avenues.
"We need to bring Barnaby here as the shadow minister for regional development, local government and water.
"Everyone needs to have a look at the issue, we need to gather the information and carry out the proper tests.
"Local and state governments don't have the money, so the federals need to get involved with some funding for an expert opinion."