Local Aboriginal groups fear a proposed controversial wakeboarding clinic could have major impacts on registered cultural sites along the Tweed River.
The Tweed Byron Local Aboriginal Land Council (TBLALC) has written to Tweed Shire Council strongly objecting to the plan by a Gold Coast company to run the coaching clinic on a stretch of river between Chinderah and Fingal Head.
The land council says it has serious environmental and cultural concerns over the plan as a number of registered Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, including two middens, could be impacted on.
They have called for further investigations before any approval is given.
On Tuesday, councillors voted to rescind a decision last month banning the operation by Pro-Wake Academy, which had been running the clinic for the high-speed watersport on the river illegally for five years.
But the plan is still in limbo after a motion was passed to defer approval till further consultation was held with the wakeboarding clinic over designated areas that could be less affected, as well as a trial period of operation.
Council staff, which had recommended against the plan because of riverbank erosion and impacts on wildlife habitat, will also meet with Aboriginal leaders over their concerns before meeting with the clinic operator.
Cr Dot Holdom, a member of council’s Aboriginal advisory committee, said she had learnt recently that the remains of a local Aborigine were buried in the area, which it could adversely affect.
Cr Holdom said the area where the clinic would be run was also vital habitat for endangered migratory shore birds such as the Hooded Plover, which is protected under international treaties.
‘We have agreements with other countries that we’re going to protect the habitat (of critically endangered bird species) and not give it up’.
She said that 10 years ago Gold Coast City Council had banned wakeboarding to protect its local waterways and preserve areas for different forms of water recreation and that, as a result, more Queensland power-boat operators used the Tweed River for their activities.
Cr Katie Milne said there were many places in Australia which excluded or limited wakeboarding, which she described as an ‘extreme sport’.
Cr Milne said it had been suggested a more isolated section of the river with revetment walls would be more appropriate, but the current plan was to operate the clinic in a section of river used by row-boats, waterskiers and other ‘low-speed’ users, making it a ‘big safety issue’.
She also said federal intervention under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act could be triggered to protect the migratory shore birds covered under international treaties.
Cr Joan van Lieshout, who had moved for the further consultation and trial period, said council had not had enough time to assess all the impacts and the extra negotiations could result in a better outcome for all.
Cr Kevin Skinner said he had observed the wake from the clinic boat and felt it had ‘not created any more problems, and less than other boats’ using the river.
But he said approval of the operation shouldn’t be seen as ‘open slather’ for others to apply to run similar activities on the river and it ‘should be for a limited time’.