The proposed dredging of the Brunswick Heads boat harbour and river channel, due to start later this month, has upset some local residents who say it’s a waste of money and will not help improve navigation safety.
Under the $600,000 plan announced by the state government last year, dredged sand and sludge from two sections of river channel is to be dumped on the southern end of New Brighton beach via an interim pipeline, while slurry from the harbour will be bagged and trucked out for disposal at a landfill site.
Similar works started last month at the Evans River and boat harbour at Evans Head and more recently in the Clarence River and Iluka boat harbour, all under the multi-million-dollar Crown Lands (NSW Trade and Investment department) program.
The works, when announced by state lands and water minister Kevin Humphries and former Ballina MP Don Page, were touted as supporting commercial fishing fleets and leisure boating by maintaining safe access to coastal river entrances and harbours.
Mr Humphries is due to announce the Brunswick Heads project details and successful dredging contractor soon, but there’s been no word on whether a community-information session on the project will be held.
Brunswick Heads resident Martin Jones said the community should have been consulted before scheduling the proposed works and there was no evidence of boat users’ safety affected by shallow waters in low tides.
‘There’s been no dredging here for 20-to-30 years and boats have managed to get around it fine since, so it seems like a big waste of taxpayer money,’ Mr Jones told Echonetdaily.
‘Maybe the dredging won’t have a massive marine ecological impact, but in a couple of years, the river and harbour sand levels will go back to where they were (before dredging),’ he said.
Mr Jones said ‘it was all about a pre-election promise (by the National Party) for fishermen and boaties’.
‘Crown Lands claim it’s for the safety of boat users at low tide. But they have not offered any reports or evidence of there being any injuries or accidents because of shallow waters,’ he said.
‘In fact boat owners have navigated the river around the tides for 20 years. If they were concerned about safety they would put some speed signs up and markers for channel navigation. And it would cost a lot less (than the millions of dollars being spent)’.
Mr Jones said that the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) report for the project ‘admits the presence of “endangered” and “vulnerable” marine species in the dredging area (it is a marine park) but assures that the dredging will not disturb them significantly, though there’s no proof offered’.
‘Also, all the toxic sludge to be dredged up off the bottom of the harbour (those residential moorings have no waste management) is to be dumped on a nearby popular beach where the toxins will leach into the sand and back into the river,’ he said.
‘Beyond the environmental impact, in the end this is just a colossal waste of money for the supposed benefit of a few recreational boat users who can easily navigate the river around the tides just as it is,’ he said.
‘After the first couple of big storms next year, all the sand that was dredged will just be redeposited back where it was anyway.’
Byron Shire Council told Crown Lands last August that it had some concerns about environmental impacts of the dredging which it wanted the department to take into consideration when drawing up the REF for the project, including shorebird and turtle nesting activity.
Council’s chief planner Ray Darney said in his letter that threatened Australian Pied Oyster Catchers had been sighted at or near the dredging site and noted concerns about potential contamination from the dredge spoil on the originally proposed North Head beach dump site.
Mr Darney said the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan for the Brunswick Estuary had noted there was ‘trace metal contamination in sediments around the marina’ and that the southern end of North Head Beach was adjacent to/or within the Brunswick Heads Nature Reserve, which contained threatened fauna.
The Evans Head project is costing around $570,000 to remove around 20,000 square metres of sand from the Evans River.
Mr Humphries and Mr Page last year said the $600,000 for the Brunswick Heads dredging would maintain navigation channels that were ‘critical to the operations of industry, the commercial fishing fleet and tourism charter vessels’.
[More to come]