29.2 C
Byron Shire
January 26, 2021

Protocols, process, and system failures

Latest News

A lot to bang on about at golf clubs and bowlos

Gone are the days when services and sports clubs dished up a choice between a pie and chips, or...

Other News

Call to extend Job Keeper for live music industry

Blues Festival organiser Peter Noble has joined calls for the government to step forward and Save our Stages and support musicians and workers in the live music industry as they struggle to make ends meet.

Science of potholes

Stephen Bellerby, Mullumbimby I would like to congratulate Richard Hil for his letter (January 6, 2021) bringing to our attention...

‘Angwirri’ greets the dawn upon Sydney icon

‘Angwirri’, meaning 'begin to talk', is the name of a sensational piece of Indigenous art that greeted the dawn on the sails of the Sydney Opera House this morning.

Holiday let reality

Doug Luke – Coordinator VOHL, Woodburn John Gudgeon, president of the Holiday Letting Organisation Byron, can’t face the reality that...

From Young to Ballina: the Eoin and Barry story

Ballina councillor Eoin Johnston and local legend Barry Saxby have a long history together, as Echonetdaily discovered when Barry's race-walking champion daughter Kerry Saxby-Junna was honoured in Ballina last week.

Eminent Australian

Michael Kelly, Wardell It’s great to see such an eminent Australian scientist like Tim Flannery recently return to, and take...

Story & image Mary Gardner

In the lagoon, the pace of winter life during the long dry seems pretty settled. The growth of small estuarine prawns slows down. Bream now five years old are grown up, itching for saltwater and their winter spawn.

Male flatheads just over a year old are readying for a springtime spawn, but the females plump up for four years or more before they’re keen. Female eels live way upstream while males are in the brackish parts near the beach. But then, with unexpected urgency, the water of the Tallow drains away. Suddenly, over 12.4 tonnes of fish die.

The power of death

The fish themselves had little to do with the events leading up to June 14, 2019. In the 450-hectare catchment around that waterway, us people hold life and death power over aquatic animals. Most of the time, ws people are busy with our lives and trust that the fish will be taken care of by the powers that be.

So we all expected that on June 27 councillors would pass an urgency motion to support the Arakwal people in the management of their homelands, ask the state to investigate, halt further openings, and develop a protocol to actively avoid fish kills and enhance fish breeding. The last few phrases are an important first for this council.

Designed outcomes

At its best, the powers that be are working according to the letter of protocols, approved by local government. We people contribute where we can in the creation of such plans.

Back in 2015, this process included an online survey seeking feedback from residents ‘affected directly or indirectly by elevated water levels in Tallow Creek.’ During that survey period, many residents of Suffolk Park received an official-looking letter about the survey dropped in their mailboxes by some anonymous source. The letter decried flooding and urged participation in the survey.

As a resident indirectly affected by water levels in Tallow Creek, I remember that survey. I participated and was deeply unhappy with its format. The questions led to certain answers and closed out alternative responses. I remember complaining about the design of the survey as well as the mysterious letter campaign.

But bureaucracy kept moving. The West Byron mega-development required attention. Like everyone, I was so busy. Sadly, I lost sight of this issue.

A matter of process

A document about an opening strategy was adopted by Council. This did not go on public exhibition as it was for ‘internal Council use’. It supplanted the 2009 Tallow Creek Floodplain Risk and Management Study, written by another consulting firm and which did go on public exhibition.

The 2009 study set out an ‘interim strategy’ to scrape the berm when the height of the sand on the beach reaches 2.2m AHD (Australian Height Datum).

‘As sandbar scraping will not reduce sand levels to the extent that the standing water level in the lake will be impacted [on], adverse environmental outcomes such as fish kills from forced releases will be avoided. The reduced san-bar level will act as a fuse, breached only at times of natural flooding.’

But the 2015 document is called an Environmental Management Plan (EMP) and includes a protocol for dredging open a channel to quickly drain the Tallow. Before any EMP would be adopted, the authors of the 2009 report expected that ‘environmental monitoring… on lake levels and flora and fauna’ would certainly be done ‘to ensure sustainability’.

What actually happened since 2015 is that the Tallow blew open a number of times. Only once was this of its own accord and without a fish kill. The other times, trenches were dug by anonymous hands. These events, in 2017 and 2018, triggered fish kills.

Who bears the cost?

On June 19, 2019, the ABC headline was ‘Thousands of fish killed after Byron Bay residents pressure council to open lagoon.’ Staff are quoted saying exactly that.

The current 2015 plan doesn’t include public pressure as a trigger for draining the Tallow. The 2009 document reported that, upon consultation with stakeholders, a ‘minor’ $30,000 worth of nuisance flood damage was estimated to occur annually in backyards, with absolutely no threat to human life.

But 12.4 tonnes of fish could be 12,400 kilograms of edible fillets, fish heads, stock or fish meal. At even a very cheap $10 a kilogram, the fish kill can represent a $124,000 loss to the economy.

The aquatic biologists among us present such costings to get more people to notice the value of fish and other aquatic creatures. But dollars won’t convey the panic of all the alert intelligent animals swept to their painful deaths. The losses of future fish as eggs and young crudely aborted. Whole life-cycles broken.

Council workers removed the dead fish to the dump. Meanwhile, some of the Arakwal rangers and a handful of volunteer residents and children carried stranded live fish in nets and wheelbarrow to the sea. With any luck, some bream are away spawning and some flathead found sanctuary elsewhere.


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

1 COMMENT

  1. My personal account of Tallow Creek, two days before this last fatal deliberate opening to the sea, was a 200mm depth over the track on both sides of the pedestrian bridge, just north of the wide section.
    This was no problem for the pushbike.

    Venturing south to observe any property implications at the upper reaches, found no impingement within boundaries, or any signs of unusual smell. This was surprising, given past complaints.!

    We humans would do better to let nature breathe more, and for us to assume less, that we know better..

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -

Entertainment in the Byron Shire for the week beginning 27 January, 2021

Lemon Chicken is not only a Chinese takeaway favourite, it's also a great local five piece band who play songs that you forgot you loved. They like to pick and choose from the fine selection of great tunes we all grew up on.

Rail Trail or nothing!

Neil McKenzie, Bangalow David Lisle’s article A short history of our rail corridor debate summed up succinctly and accurately the compelling case for a rail trail,...

Interview with Phil Manning of Chain

Phil Manning picked up the guitar at 15. He’s been playing now for nearly 58 years. This year, Chain play the Byron Blues Festival.

Interview with Laura Bloom

Writer Laura Bloom has just released The Women and The Girls her latest novel with Allen & Unwin. Set in the inner west of Sydney in the mid ‘70s the book details the story of three women who have left their husbands, taken their children (mainly girls) and set up a share house.
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -